Dad used to like to keep scrap books and journals and although I don’t have the first two volumes I do have volume three of his book of footballers that was started on 7th March 1947.
Dad was keen on all forms of sport and I have been looking through the old school magazines from Wellingborough Grammar School to see if I could find any reference to him in the sporting sections because he was a keen sportsman and a follower of all types of sport. I was slightly surprised to find no reference to him at all because I know that he was an especially keen cricketer and a cross-country runner.
His favourite sport was football but Wellingborough being a grammar school didn’t encourage soccer and concentrated instead on rugby or rugger as they preferred to call it. I can’t imagine that he would have liked rugby because he was small and lightweight and not built for the game at all. I can sympathise with that because I had to endure the same fate, going to school as I did in Rugby, and I didn’t enjoy it at all.
I know that he was playing football because for the season 1948-49 he was keeping a journal of the matches of his team the Higham Swifts for whom he was a regular, playing on either the left or right wing. The records show that he was on the selection committee so I suppose he had some sort of choice about his position.
In this journal he wrote match reports that give an insight into the team and its players, how well or badly they played and his own personal contribution. In that season they played eleven matches, won seven and lost six and scored forty-six goals and dad bagged eight of them. The reports are eloquent and imaginative, his use of English is immaculate with perfect grammar and no spelling mistakes and with this impressive writing skill it surprises me even more that he left school without his passing out certificate.
These are some of my favourite extracts from the reports:
11.12.1948, “Late in the match the Swifts tried hard and had an apparently good goal by Petcher disallowed on the grounds of hands” – Surely he knew if he handled it or not!
6.11.1948, This was really serious stuff, “A Pasilow was transferred today from Higham Juniours to Higham Swifts and will play on Saturday in the outside left position” – The fee was not disclosed.
18.12.1948, “Knifton had a grand game but had little support from Petcher who was injured and remained a passenger for most of the game”
no date, “Higham swifts were humiliated by Rushden St Mary’s by 14 goals to 2, in the squelching mud of the home teams ground, a sticky mess of a pitch which resembled a glue pot”, a fairly emphatic defeat by the sounds of it and a lot of excuses! But let’s not forget that by playing on mud was exactly how Derby County won the 1st division title twice in the 1970’s.
12.2.1949, “The Swifts fielding once again their strongest team we saw football at its best “ – self praise indeed
He was also playing cricket and between 1947 and 1949 he maintained a similar journal for ‘The Bats Cricket Club’ and here he did even better because he was the club captain (he was probably on the selection committee as well). He liked cricket and later on was always in the Council twenty overs side that played regular cricket during the summers. He was a good all rounder who batted left hand and bowled with his right, which was a bit surprising because he was a total left hander.
He is the one in the middle at the front, I am sitting next to him.
Later on he continued to keep a sports journal for the County Offices Football Club for the seasons 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56 and then they stop. Again he wrote passionate match reports and here are some of my favourite extracts:
10.10.1953, “Late changes in the County offices Team when Petcher was forced to retire with a cold” – what a wimp, he might have at least called it man flu!
31.10.1953, “Petcher missed a glorious opportunity when perfectly placed at less than three yards he failed completely to connect and the ball rolled by”
5th December 1953 a hat trick against Brighton Rovers
January 1954 – Injury crisis: “Hubbard, Baxter and Petcher all declared fit. Willis out for the season. Parker now visiting infirmary for treatment. Landon has decided to hang up his boots. Howes and Topliss unfit for at least a week. Bodicoat should be alright for Saturday (cold). Henson still has slight limp. Gardner’s leg giving trouble.” – These must have been awfully tough matches!
6th January 1954, “an entertaining match marred only when County Offices new goalkeeper was carried off with a broken nose” – See what I mean!
13th January 1954, a 13-0 thumping, brother Peter in the team, Dad playing in defence; “Poor Petcher for the 3rd week running put through his own goal”. …Better to go back to the forwards then.
20th February 1954, “Although the ground was half under water the referee decided play was possible” – I’d liked to have seen that!
17th September 1955, in a match they won 6-0 “what a pity the office team became over confident and fiddled and fuddled about in the last fifteen minutes. They ought to have had a bucket full!”
Although I regularly played cricket with him I don’t remember him playing football except on one occasion in about 1978 when at work the Finance Department (my team) played the Planners (his) in a friendly and he found his old fashioned boots at the back of the garage and although he was forty-six and certainly not match fit he filled his favourite position on the wing and showed glimpses of the talent that he had when he was a young man. I played full back for Finance and I know he gave me the run around a few times!