Posted by Tony Hutton
In trying to review the highlights of this blog which has taken me four years to complete, having started in February 2015, it is perhaps necessary to re-read my introduction at the beginning of proceedings way back in 1946. It all started with seeing the 1946 cup final on the cinema newsreels when Derby County beat Charlton at Wembley and then really took off when my Grandad took me to see Leeds United play Sheffield United at Elland Road in August 1946.
Three years living in Huddersfield saw me follow the fortunes, or mis-fortunes, of Huddersfield Town who were perennial relegation candidates, but somehow managed to escape for a while anyway. One of my favourite games at Huddersfield was a cup tie between Manchester United and Charlton Athletic which was played at Leeds Road due to both Manchester Clubs being drawn at home when they shared the Maine Road ground.
I can still reel off the full United team who went on to win the cup that season by beating Blackpool 4-2 at Wembley. Other highlights at Huddersfield were seeing Billy Liddell of Liverpool race through from half way to crash a powerful shot into the Town net, seeing the great England goalkeeper Frank Swift's last match for Manchester City and being allowed to touch the F.A.Cup carried by Billy Wright of Wolves in an old wooden box.
That took me to the end of the 1940s when my father's job took us off to the Midlands where I started watching both Walsall and Aston Villa the two clubs closest to where we lived. I soon became a bit more adventurous and started watching West Bromwich Albion, Wolves and Birmingham City as well. Walsall were really the lowest of the low at that time and repeatedly had to apply for re-election to the league. However I stuck with them in my quest to see all the teams of the Third Division South as it then was.
Aston Villa were a strange side during the 1950s, with lots of good players, although some of them were rather long in the tooth, a large ground which was the regular venue for F.A. Cup semi-finals and a good level of support. However, they never really looked like winning anything. Of the others I must say West Bromwich Albion were my favourites from the mid-fifties onwards and I became a season ticket holder in mid-sixties, when I first watched football from a seat in the stand, rather than the terraces behind the goals.
I also watched a lot of the Wolves, probably the most successful Midlands side of that period, but although admiring the play of Billy Wright and the two wingers Johnny Hancocks and Jimmy Mullen, never really took to them with their long ball tactics when led by manager Stan Cullis.
Albion were far more to my taste. I thought they played proper football, with clever ball players like Don Howe, Ray Barlow and Bobby Robson. My greatest favourite was Ronnie Allen, not a typical centre forward as he was not very tall, but a brilliant player with a tremendous shot and able to lay on goals for others.
Walsall of course eventually had their seasons in the sun, after years of struggling in the lower reaches of the Third Division. The formation of the new Fourth Division led them to becoming league champions in 1959-60 and they continued on the crest of a wave to gain promotion to the Second Division at the end of 1960-61 on a memorable night in Shrewsbury. The start of 1961-62 season was probably the high point of Walsall's history with great home wins at Fellows Park over star studded Sunderland and Newcastle United.
Despite the tremendous goal scoring of Tony Richards and Colin Taylor during this period and the sterling work of such stalwarts as 'Chopper' Gutteridge and Albert McPherson in defence, Walsall were relegated after just two seasons when they lost a tragic replay (following a monsoon like downpour) in their vital last match of 1962-63 with Charlton.
Towards the end of the 1960's when I re-located first to Derbyshire and then back to Yorkshire, I started to watch both Derby County, then in the Second Division, and Matlock Town, members of the new Northern Premier League. This was at the beginning of the Brian Clough and Peter Taylor era at Derby and it was great to share the incredible Baseball Ground atmosphere as promotion was followed by the First Division Championship and entry into the European Cup. A new goal scoring hero arrived in the shape of Kevin Hector, who was surrounded by some class players developed by the management team with such precision.
Matlock Town, despite being a perennial mid-table side finally came good in 1975, when the whole town seemed to descend on Wembley to see Peter Swan's side trounce favourites Scarborough in the F.A. Trophy final. Then it was on into Sheffield where my son and I became regulars at Bramall Lane after winning season tickets in a father and son competition. Some great games here with Sheffield United often upsetting the top teams with such favourites as Tony Currie and Alan Woodward.
We also watched Sheffield Wednesday on occasions at Hillsborough including the famous visit by Santos of Brazil, with the inimitable Pele, on a Wednesday afternoon due to the floodlight ban. An occasion when the whole city seemed to come to a standstill. Finally I came full circle when we returned to Leeds and became season ticket holders in the Lowfields Road stand to watch the end of an era as Don Revie's great team gradually departed one by one. By 1980 my enthusiasm for the game began to wane and, like many a middle aged man, compared the new version of the game and it's atmosphere unfavourably with my boyhood memories. However I still have all those wonderful memories of great games of the past, even if today's game largely passes me by.
List of most memorable matches.
7.2.1948 - F.A. Cup - Manchester United 2 Charlton Athletic 0 (at Leeds Road, Huddersfield)
30.4.1949 - Division Three North - Hull City 6 Stockport County 1.
18.3.1950 - Division Three South - Walsall 3 Notts County 3. (at Fellows Park)
2.2.1952 - F.A. Cup - Birmingham City 0 Leyton Orient 1. (at St. Andrews)
6.9.1952 - Division Two - Huddersfield Town 6 Barnsley 0. (at Leeds Road)
4.10.1952 - Division One - Wolves 6 Manchester Utd. 2. (at Molineux)
28.2.1953 - F.A. Cup - Aston Villa 0 Everton 1. (at Villa Park)
21.3.1953 - F.A. Cup semi-final - Blackpool 2 Spurs 1. (at Villa Park)
13.3.1954 - F.A. Cup - W.B.A. 3 Spurs 1. (at the Hawthorns)
29.9.1954 - Charity Shield - Wolves 4 W.B.A. 4. (at Molineux)
26.3.1955 - F.A. Cup semi-final - Manchester City 1 Sunderland 0. (at Villa Park)
7.5.1955 - F.A. Cup Final - Newcastle Utd. 3 Manchester City 1. (at Wembley)
15.10.1955 - Division One - Aston Villa 4 Manchester Utd. 4. (at Villa Park)
1.3.1958 - F.A. Cup - W.B.A. 2 Manchester Utd. 2. (at the Hawthorns)
22.3.1958 - F.A. Cup semi-final - Manchester Utd. 2 Fulham 2 (Villa Park)
23.2.1959 - F.A. Cup - Notts Forest 5 Birmingham City 0 ( Filbert Street, Leicester)
2.3.1960 - European Cup - Wolves 2 Barcelona 5 (Molineux)
26.4.1961 - Division Three - Shrewsbury Town 1 Walsall 2 (Gay Meadow)
19.8.1961 - Division Two - Walsall 4 Sunderland 3 (Fellows Park)
26.12.1963 - Division One - W.B.A. 4 Spurs 4 (The Hawthorns)
23.3.1966 - League Cup - W.B.A. 4 West Ham United 1 (The Hawthorns)
30.7.1966 - World Cup Final - England 4 West Germany 2 (Wembley)
3.3.1967 - League Cup Final - Queens Park Rangers 3 W.B.A. 2 (Wembley)
7.10.1967 - Division One - Leeds United 7 Chelsea 0 (Elland Road)
29.5.1968 - European Cup Final - Manchester United 4 Benfica 1 (Wembley)
2.10.1968 - League Cup - Derby County 3 Chelsea 1 (The Baseball Ground)
23.10.1968 - League Cup - Derby County 1 Everton 0 (The Baseball Ground)
15.3.1969 - League Cup Final - Swindon Town 3 Arsenal 1 (Wembley)
20.9.1969 - Division One - Derby County 5 Spurs 0 (The Baseball Ground)
1.5.1972 - Division One - Derby County 1 Liverpool 0 (The Baseball Ground)
7.5.1973 - Jack Charlton Testimonial - Leeds Utd. 3 Glasgow Celtic 4 (Elland Road)
19.5.1973 - International - England 1 Scotland 0 (Wembley)
4.9.1973 - Division One - Sheffield United 5 Arsenal 0 (Bramall Lane)
22.3.1975 - Division One - Sheffield United 3 West Ham United 2 (Bramall Lane)
26.4.1975 - F.A. Trophy Final - Matlock Town 4 Scarborough 0 (Wembley)
1.5.1976 - F.A. Cup Final - Southampton 1 Manchester United 0 (Wembley)
8.1.1977 - F.A. Cup - Carlisle United 5 Matlock Town 1 (Brunton Park)
4.5.1978 - Northern Premier Cup Final - Matlock Town 3 Boston United 0 (Maine Road)
16.4.1980 - F.A. Cup semi-final replay - West Ham 2 Everton 1 (Elland Road)
26.4.1981 - Division One - Aston Villa 3 Middlesborough 0 (Villa Park)
28.7.1985 - Bradford City Testimonial match - England 1966 6 West Germany 1966 4
Finally I will try to pick my best team of all the great players I have seen over the years, which has been a very difficult task, but here goes:-
1. Bert Trautmann (Manchester City)
2. John Carey (Manchester United) 2. Roger Byrne (Manchester United)
4. Billy Bremner (Leeds Utd) 5. John Charles (Leeds Utd) 6. Dave Mackay (Spurs and Derby)
7. George Best (Manchester Utd), 8. Raich Carter (Derby and Hull City),
9. Ronnie Allen (W.B.A.), 10. Bobby Charlton (Manchester Utd), 11. Tom Finney (Preston N.E.).
As an alternative a team of players who entertained me the most, picked from all the teams I followed over the years:-
1. Bert Williams (Wolves)
2. Don Howe (W.B.A.), 3. Bill Gutteridge (Walsall);
4. Colin Todd (Derby), 5. Roy McFarland (Derby), 6. Ray Barlow (W.B.A.)
7. Johnny Hancocks (Wolves), 8. Kevin Hector (Derby), 9. Tony Richards (Walsall),
10. Tony Currie (Sheffield Utd and Leeds United), 11. Colin Taylor (Walsall).