Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Memories from a Haslingden Lad who supported "H-A-Y,crington Stanley (Accrington Stanley)

Accrington Stanley Football Club - probably 1958  (Click over photo to enlarge)
(Back Row shows Bob McNichol 2nd from the left and next to him on the right is Gordon Stones)

Lots of Haslingden folk supported their local professional football league team which was Blackburn Rovers,  Burnley or Accrington Stanley. The bus from Haslingden (I think it was No.4 and may still be) were always busy on Saturday afternoons, especially with fans of Accrington Stanley
Well it was way back around 1959-61 period or let’s just say 1960 and be done with it!
Lots of people don’t know this and are rather surprised when I tell them, or that’s the way they look, yet they may just be darn good actors!

I was stood there near the players and staff entrance waiting with my autograph book just like I did every Saturday afternoon and every weekday matches, when one of the local club officials, said, “ hey son! Do you know who that is there”?  And although I thought I did know him was not sure at first until he said well its Matt Busby and his assistant Jimmy Murphy!  Well I then knew exactly who he meant!  Not only the manager of the greatest football team in these lands, but also it ran through my mind at the time, “here we have a gentleman who had survived that terrible Munich air disaster which had split his famous Busby Babes and yet he still managed to rebuild that team into yet another incredible team as they were today.

Mr. Busby and Mr. Murphy made there way up the steps and into the VIP spectator box (you can see it in the above photo directly behind the players) which was a elevated Red painted timber covered seating area which probably had about 100 seats it just looked like a little stage up there (I suppose it was the Gods! And tonight as far as I was concerned only the Gods were sitting in it!)  Again that gruff voice came from that same burly kind man in the brown trilby and this time he was saying “Give me your book son and I will go and get his autograph for you”.  I could’nt believe how lucky I was! And sure enough the Club official approached Mr. Busby and must have mentioned me in conversation with him, because the famous man actually looked down towards me and waved to me!  Wow life could never have got better at that very moment and I waved back to him. A superb memory I have held from that day to this (over 50 years).  Mr Busby and Mr. Murphy were actually at the Club to check out our centre half, a tall player called Gordon Stones who hailed from Baxenden, but sadly Gordon must not have impressed the guys because he stayed at the Stanley for another year or two after.

The famous were always climbing those concrete terraces of Peel Park during the 50s and 60s.  Regular I would see one of the greatest players that both Blackpool and England have ever had on their books.  Mr. Stanley Mortenson.  He loved to come down to Stanley on weeknight matches when he himself did not have a game on with Blackpool and he was one of the kindest chaps you would ever meet.  He never refused autographs and always had time to talk football to the kids.  Even when Stanley Mortenson had almost come to the end of his playing career and played for Southport I remember him coming to the Stanley on regular fixtures. Stanley used to own a cracking sports shop in central Blackpool in a street which ran at the back of the central prom but horizontal to it.  I have been back along these streets many times trying to check out which one it was that Stanley used to have. 

Another regular attender at the Stanley on midweek matches was to later become a top personality with Manchester United, but then he played for Preston North End and that was Tommy Docherty.
Jimmy Adamson who played for Burnley and at that time also captained England would also be seen regular at Peel Park.  Another time I saw all the stars of the West Ham one Friday night as they were due to play Blackpool the following day which included the famous John Bond, together with Phil Woosnam and Michael Musgrove.

I remember this coloured chap coming who played for Doncaster Rovers, in fact I must have seen him at the Stanley several times over corresponding seasons and it seemed strange at the time because he spoke as broad a Yorkshire as you would ever get, and was really jovial and cracking light hearted jokes with the lads, and a few years later I was to start seeing him regular on the television on Saturday nights on the TV “Comedians” show, and he was the late great Charlie Williams.

Other players I remember coming to the Stanley was Les Shannon and Brian Pilkington of Burnley, and in the case of Brian who also played for England. Alex Alston for Preston North End and lots lots more that escape the memory for now.

One thing that does not escape the memory is the fabulous smell and taste of those warm Hollands Pies.  Not long after going through the turnstiles and you started to climb the concrete terraces and you could smell those pies which were sold from that wooden hut just in front of you at the top of the terrace. As if the pies were not runny enough the people who served on would have a large white jug filled up with more gravy and topped off each pie.  Wow those pies were so good, especially on them cold Saturday afternoons or when there were midweek evening matches.

I remember this small plump guy who was one of the regular Stanley supporters in the crowd and he was a well known local celebrity who did artwork for the local newspapers and he would charge fans 6d to do a pencil sketch portrait of you or another of the Stanley players of your choice, and he was a superb artist and young lads were queing up to get him to do a portrait which he would have done within about 5 minutes. I know you might think well 6d is nothing, but try and remember it was only about 5 shillings (or maybe seven and sixpence) to get in those days (eg: 25 pence/35 pence in todays money).  I was a season ticket holder for a couple of years and I think for the season it cost me about £10 in total.

Occasionally I would buy a programme which those days were rather bland if you compare the programmes of today.  They were about 9” x 6” cream coloured paper with printing in red colour, just basic and were probably about 6 pages with all the weekly news, team line ups and adverts from local business.  I must of at the time had hundreds which all eventually got chucked in the bin!  Nowadays those same programmes can bring £20 a piece on Ebay!

There were probably only two or three of us autograph hunters those days and on our way up to the match sometimes would call in at Garth Dawson's shop which was next door to the Whitewell Dairies shop on the same street as the Accrington Royal Mail depot.  Here you could purchase a portrait photo of any of the Stanley players which would cost about 6d each and then you would later get the player to autograph the photo.

We would walk past the Stanley house on Avenue Parade where most of the players lived, whilst on the way to the match. 

I remember Stanley purchasing this large spectators stand and I mean large stand which was to be part of the fixture on the West Side of Peel Park, it looked absolutely enormous at the time, It made such a difference by allowing several hundred more people to be able to sit and watch the match.  They got the stand from Aldershot Football Club if I remember correctly.

Stanley had some cracking players, in fact most of the team those days were all Scottish, but it’s no wonder because the manager was Mr. Gilbraith who hailed from Scotland.  I think Paddy Sowden must have felt the odd man out being a Welshman surrounded by a team of Scots!  One guy in particular was my hero at the time he was called Bob McNicholl who normally played full back for the Stanley, but occasionally I saw him take over when the goalie (Bill McInnes) got injured and he would go in the nets as emergency/replacement keeper.  I can confirm having seen Bob on more than one occasion score a goal from the full back position.  In fact I think I actually saw him score one time when he was the actual goalie.  A cracking bloke.  Bob eventually left the Stanley to play for Brighton, but this was not to be the last of Bob, because but I was to see him again because whilst at Accrington he married Fred Kirkham’s daughter (of Kirkhams Coach Firm) and after he had retired from football came back to live in Accrington and was regular seen in Haslingden running Kirkhams ticket office close to Ratcliffe Street, where you could see him get on the Coaches for the Country Run on a Sunday to check that everyone had got tickets.  Sadly I believe Bob died at quite a young age. Another fabulous servant to the old club was Les Cocker who was also a great player in his earlier years but in later years mainly played for the reserves and just occasionally with the first squad (winger if I remember correct) who also now and again would go in the goals when needs must!, and he ended up as a trainer for the Club, but after the Stanley he went on to be trainer of Leeds United under Manager Don Revie and from there he went on to be the trainer of England whilst still serving under Don Revie who by then had become Manager. Photos below which also show Les Cocker

It was great those days to wear the red and white scarf, just has it should still be today!   Them days of the past some would have had those wooden rattles and whiz them around at matches sometimes nearly knocking people in the face with them, its no wonder they got barred!!

I suppose there are lots more STANLEY tales I will think of as soon as I finish the article, but one thing is for sure, I can soon add more later if needed.
If you have any particular Stanley tales you want to put on this blog, then why not contact me.

Bryan Yorke (2nd December 2015)

Accrington Stanley Football Club - Earlier (probably 1956) and showing Les Cocker front left  (Click over to enlarge)
The photo above is from around the period when I first started to support the Club and can remember (just!) Tommy McQueen in the goals and Les Cocker on the wing. 

2nd December 2015 - Derek Whittaker kindly added:

Bryan, wonderful memories of Peel Park in the blog. I used to play for the school every Saturday morning and then off after dinner to support the Stanley, whether it be the first or second team (it was 6d to watch the reserves).

The crowds towards to the end were usually just above 1,000 and I can remember one wet, winter’s night against Wrexham when the crowd was less than 1,000. On the bright side I can remember a home cup match against Portsmouth when the crowd was 20,000+. It was a 1-1 draw and we got beat in the replay 1-4. Portsmouth at the time where by far the best team in England.

As young boys we were allowed to either sit on the wall behind the goal, legs dangling over it or squat on benches about 6’’ high leaning back against the wall. Wouldn’t be allowed these days - Health and Safety!

Bob McNichol was also my hero, along with Jimmy Devine, a tricky, little winger (his brother was also in the team). I also remember Bob McNichol taking over in goal, substitutes weren’t allowed. The team had a bad run of injuries on their goalkeepers and Bob always was a brave stand-in so the manager decided in desperation to start the game with Bob in goal. He had 5 or 6 fly past him.

Eventually it all came to an end and if my memory is correct the sum that drove Stanley into bankruptcy was £56,000. The vast majority of league clubs would love to have that amount of debt these days.

I now live in Shropshire and have gone to support Stanley when they played Telford. I have a replica shirt (with Hollands Pies as the sponsors) and whenever they win I remind my friends down here that “the march on Europe” continues.

Accrington Stanley FC 1957/1958 (Click over photo to enlarge)

The above programme has been kindly contributed by Ron Baron and its a friendly match between Accrington Stanley and East Fife - First ever floodlit match. (Click over photos to enlarge)

Click over this link if you want to see the
 "Stanley" Milk Advert on You Tube

In the 1980s, Accrington Stanley was mentioned in a television advert for milk, which brought the club to the attention of the general public.  The advertisement featured two young boys in Liverpool replica shirts and made reference to Accrington Stanley's obscurity in comparison to Liverpool's success at the time.

Boy 1: "Milk! Urghh!"
Boy 2: "It's what Ian Rush drinks."
Boy 1: "Ian Rush?"
Boy 2: "Yeah, And he said if I didn't drink lots of milk, when I grow up, I'll only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley."
Boy 1:  "Accrington Stanley, who are they?"
Boy 2: "Exactly"

(Reproduced from the Wikipaedia pages - using the Creative Commons Attribution ShareALike Licence)

Maureen Gidley added (11th May 2017): Oh Bryan what glorious memories! I've still got my old Stanley scrapbooks and, like you the 6d photos from Garth Dawson's. In my eyes Stanley could do no wrong, so woe betide anyone who dare criticise! After moving from Clayton to Accy I used to walk my dog past the Avenue Parade house (49?) to see if there were any players around. Happy days!