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Matches of Yesteryear Special - U's v Bradford City 30/12/61
Written by wessex_exile on Monday, 20th Jan 2020 13:57

This one is a special for the Matches of Yesteryear series, as we step slightly outside the original concept of blogs related to my football memorabilia collection. I am delighted that our very own pwrightsknees approached me with an absolutely fantastic idea just before Christmas, and an idea that really deserves this specific slot in our football calendar. It is also particularly appropriate given the terrible coincidence that Martyn King sadly passed on Christmas Day, the all-time record league goal-scorer for the U’s with 130 goals (1959-64).

Colchester United v Bradford City

Saturday 30th December 1961

Division 4 (Tier 4)

Attendance 4,415

Match #38, and we go back to a time before I was even born (though I was on the way, arriving about eight months later). Danny Williams was no. 1 with his version of Mancini’s Moon River, a year before Andy Williams (no relation, obviously) made his own recording, and the Empire State building had just been sold for $65,000,000. The Vietnam War had officially started earlier in December, with the arrival of USS Core in Saigon Harbour, Marina Oswald and her husband Lee Harvey had been granted exit visas to travel to the US from Minsk, and on this actual day Ben “Billy the Whizz” Johnson was born (presumably drugs were involved?). In the world of football, their first season in the top-flight was going well for our country cousins at Portman Rd, who at the time were in 4th place.

As best as I can tell, Colchester United programmes for that season didn’t indicate which match was being played on the front cover, so I have shown a version I found on a Wrexham FC programme archive.

PWK will take it from here…

1961/62 was the U’s first in League Division 4, having been relegated from Division 3 the previous season. Although eventually finishing 2nd in the table behind Millwall, the season kicked up a mixture of results, suggesting that the U’s were far from dominant. This game took place just four days after the 4-1 Boxing Day defeat by Bradford City at Valley Parade (managed by Bob Brocklebank at the time), which left the U’s in 2nd place in the table behind Wrexham. At the turn of the year, most thought that Wrexham were the class team in the division, but they faded in the second half of the season, finishing only third, while Millwall became much more dominant and won the title by just 1 point from the U’s.

That 4-1 defeat to Bradford City was typical of the U’s away performances that season, with many (league) defeats by at least 3 goals. In addition to our battering at Bradford City, there were heavy defeats at Southport (3-0), York City (5-0), Mansfield Town (4-0), Tranmere Rovers (5-2), Chesterfield (4-1), Barrow (4-0), and Crewe Alexandra (4-0). The only defeats by less than 3 goals were (and I attended all four) at Gillingham (2-1), at home to Wrexham (2-4, and our only home defeat that season), at Millwall (2-0), and at Aldershot (1-0)

As for the match itself, Christmas had gone, and the New Year beckoned. It was a cold, grey day, and I had walked the mile and a quarter from my parents’ home just off the Mersea Road, along Circular Road South, through the barracks to Layer Road. My pals and I stood just to the right of the main stand with the Layer Road turnstiles further to the right. As far as I can remember, I took up my usual spot, halfway up, leaning on a crush barrier, and about level with the edge of the 18-yard box.

There were no changes to the team as printed in the programme:

Goalkeeper Percy Ames

2 Right Back - Tommy Millar

3 Left Back - John Fowler

4 Right half - Trevor Harris

5 Centre Half - Brian Abrey

6 Left Half - Ronnie Hunt (Capt.)

7 Outside Right - Mike Foster

8 Inside Right -Bobby Hill

9 Centre Forward - Martyn King

10 Inside Left - Bobby Hunt

11 Outside Left - Peter Wright

This was Benny Fenton’s (U’s Manager) preferred first eleven line up that season. No substitutes in those days, and proper numbers, i.e. no goalie number, then 2-11 on the outfield players and not squad numbers. Percy Ames, John Fowler, Bobby Hill, Martyn King, Bobby Hunt, and Peter Wright were U’s stalwarts over many seasons, but some names may seem unfamiliar, even to regular board readers.

Tommy Millar: Had been signed from Scottish non-league a couple of seasons previously and converted to attacking full-back. He scored a number of goals for the U’s but was also noted for being fierce in the tackle. Tommy had replaced Alan Eagles following his departure after Benny’s clear-out at the end of the relegation season. Tragically, Tommy’s year-old son had drowned in the garden and Tommy was released and returned to Scotland soon after this match.

Trevor “Chopper” Harris: Yes, we had a “Chopper Harris” a decade before the better-known Chelsea player. Colchester-born Chopper was an attacking wing-half, renowned for his aggressive playing style. Chopper had been promoted from the reserves the previous season to replace an out-of-form Derek Parker.

Brian Abrey: A new signing from Chelsea reserves in the close season to replace U’s stalwart Chic Milligan at centre-half, who had been released at the end of the relegation season. Brian was a strong centre-half, and a good footballer and passer of the ball. Sadly, a knee injury caused him to miss the last few games of the season and he was replaced by a young Duncan Forbes. The knee injury caused Brian to retire from football at the beginning of the following season.

Ronnie Hunt: U’s captain that season and elder brother of U’s hero Bobby. Colchester-born Ronnie was a defensive wing-half, tough in the tackle. He, too, had been promoted from the reserves in the previous season to replace an out-of-form Cyril “Squib” Hammond.

Mike Foster: A new signing from Leicester City reserves in the close season to replace the U’s hero Tommy Williams who had been released at the end of the relegation season. A pacey outside right who seemed to glide over the pitch, and who could deliver a good cross. He was sold to Norwich City at the end of the season for £3,000 + Roy McCrohan, but never played a first-team game for them.

The referee that day was Jim Finney, later an international referee with FIFA and who, at the end of the 1961/62 season, refereed the FA Cup Final between Spurs and Burnley (Spurs won 3-1). Finney had a somewhat colourful career. He is believed to be one of only five freemasons to have refereed an FA Cup final (of course, how would we know for certain), and it certainly broke with convention when Danny Blanchflower presented him with the match ball at the end of the final. He achieved international notoriety in 1963 when he abandoned the match between Scotland and Austria in the 79th minute, with Scotland winning 4-1 at the time. According to Finney, he called the game off for “persistent fouling”, with Horst Nemec already dismissed for spitting, and Erich Hof for a “diabolical tackle at waist-height”. Finney reported afterwards “I felt that I had to abandon the match or somebody would have been seriously hurt”.

We didn’t know any of that at the time of the U’s v Bradford City match, of course.

And so to the action:

The U’s kicked off towards the uncovered clock end. The ball went out to Mike Foster on the right wing. He took on the Bradford City full back and crossed the ball low. Bobby Hill nipped into the near post and scored - WITH HIS KNEE. The U’s were a goal up inside the first minute. The next quarter of the match was fairly even and uneventful. Then on 18 minutes, Tait scored an equaliser for Bradford City. Ten minutes later, Bobby Hunt scored to put the U’s 2-1 up and on 34 minutes Martyn King scored the U’s third, so at half-time the U’s led by a relatively modest scoreline of 3-1.

For the first 20 minutes of the second half, the U’s sat comfortably on their two-goal lead. Then they put the match completely beyond doubt by scoring twice in rapid succession via Bobby Hunt (65 minutes) and Martyn King (68 minutes). 5-1 to the U’s, who were dominant now, and on 80 minutes we were awarded a penalty. Some in the crowd called for it to be taken by Percy Ames, who had had very little to do second half, but Bobby Hunt wanted every goal he could get so that he could remain in contention for the League’s top scorer. He duly despatched the penalty to put the U’s 6-1 up.

But the fun hadn’t finished yet. Bobby Hunt scored again a minute later (7-1), followed by two more from Martyn King (85 and 88 minutes), the U’s eventually running out 9-1 winners. Following Bobby Hill’s early goal, Bobby Hunt and Martyn King had then weighed in with four goals each.

Colchester United 9 (Bobby Hill 1’, Bobby Hunt 28’, 65’, 80’p, 81’, Martyn King 34’, 68’, 85’, 88’) Bradford City 1 (Barry Tait 18’)

Ipswich Town did not have a match that day and some of their players came to watch the U’s. Andy Nelson, the Ipswich captain, rather ungraciously suggested most of the goals had come from defensive mistakes rather than good play by the U’s. The comment infuriated Hal Mason the local reporter, and it should also be noted that a largely unchanged Bradford City defence only conceded three goals to Arsenal at Highbury the following week in their FA Cup match.

By the end of the season, top goal-scorer in the football league was Roger Hunt of Liverpool (then 2nd Division) with 41 goals. Bobby Hunt (4th Division) was runner-up alongside Cliff Holton of Watford and Northampton Town (3rd Division) with 37 goals each – Bobby obviously top scorer for Division 4. Top 1st Division scorers were Ray Crawford (Ipswich Town) and Derek Kevan (West Bromwich Albion) both with 33 goals each, with Ipswich winning the title in their first season in the top-flight.

The U’s finished one point behind champions Millwall, and were promoted straight back to Division 3 at the first time of asking, alongside Wrexham and Carlisle – Bradford City missed out by one point in 5th place. Doncaster Rovers, Hartlepools United and Chester finished in the relegation zone, but as was so often the case then, were all re-elected. Not so fortunate was Accrington Stanley, who after financial difficulties following the purchase of the new Burnley Road stand, were declared bankrupt and resigned from the league in March of that season.

As we all know, this remains our record win in the league, matched only by our 9-1 victory over Leamington in the 2005 FA Cup 1st round match. Only three players have ever scored four goals in a game for the U’s, Bobby Hunt and Martyn King in this game, and of course Chris Iwelumo against Phil Parkinson’s Hull City when we were in the Championship. In addition to his four goals here, Martyn King also jointly holds the record for scoring the most hat-tricks (five), shared with Arthur Pritchard, Arthur Turner and Tony Adcock. King was a magnificent footballer, and he will be sorely missed.

The expunging of Accrington Stanley’s results is part of U’s folklore, but a bit of a red herring as far as that season was concerned. Yes, it cost Bobby Hunt a goal in his chase for top scorer across all four divisions, but his namesake Roger Hunt (Liverpool, then remarkably in Division 2) would have won that anyway. Accrington’s demise did cost the U’s 4 points, and Millwall only 2 (they had only played Accrington Stanley once at the time), but Millwall would probably have won the second match anyway, and still finished a point above the U’s even if the Accrington results had stood.

Anyway, to finish, enjoy the delightful talent of “Britain’s Johnny Mathis” Danny Williams, no. 1 on the day we made history.

Up the U’s







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