Day my footer ban hit front of Evening News

WHITES v Stripes trial match, the poster said. I smile now at how it intrigued a boy who, though not knowing it then, was to have a working life much involved with football. The poster, first such I d ever seen, was part of the new life in Ilford beginnin

WHITES v Stripes trial match, the poster said. I smile now at how it intrigued a boy who, though not knowing it then, was to have a working life much involved with football.

The poster, first such I'd ever seen, was part of the new life in Ilford beginning for me after war evacuation in the country.

Just then, trial was a frequently headlined word as Nazi war criminals were brought to an overdue book. Dad explained that on the poster it meant the game all clubs staged before the real season began. Two or three weeks old by that early September day when I spotted it in Gants Hill, the poster still served a useful turn by alerting me to Ilford Football Club. A first match day visit there was not long delayed.

Dad joined me and we stood on the terracing just inside the entrance turnstiles at Ilford's Newbury Park premises. The turnstiles were a first time novelty for me.


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Who the match was against I forget now, or the result. Not so with some who were afield for Ilford. The match programme, another first for me, gave only initials for Christian names. Dad said it was always done like that for amateurs. Over the next few Saturdays I learned goalkeeper T. Turner was Tommy, and his colleagues included Ted Toase, Les Male, Bert Myers, Ted Stringer and Clarrie Pratt.

The two-page programme, like the posters, was printed in the blue-and-white club colours and by the Recorder, as I was to find out much later.

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As fascinating to me as the game was my first experience of being in a football crowd, standing on that loosely populated terracing hearing opinions and comments. That crowd was perhaps not typical.

Expectation and partisanship was moderate. Hopes were largely of seeing a "good" game.

The place to be for rich verbal pickings was in the "enclosure" in front of the main stand.

The players' tunnel, open air, was at one end. You paid extra (a tanner for boys) to watch the game from the enclosure in foul weather, sheltered by the stand roof's overhang.

The cognoscenti there were tweedy, pipe-smoking characters, who knew players of both teams well enough to have been clubmates, judging by the anecdotes that flew about.

We never aspired to the main stand. Dad laughed at the thought of watching a game sat down. He was one of those who moved with the action, regularly staggering me as he went in for the cut-back cross or challenged for possession. I don't think dad was bothered about the football, though he was never critical of it.

One game, when I was on my own, I sat in the clock stand on the opposite side of the ground, just for the experience.

The long, narrow stand was named after the large clock placed centrally on its roof, which was always right.

The Ilford pitch was well known as one of the best going, and the club was often the venue for important games, including two of Britain's qualifying matches for the 1948 Olympics.

Also staged there in postwar seasons was a game with a side representing China.

They'd already played several games here and had got a name for being goal-shy, but looked anything but in losing a 5-3 thriller.

The Recorder stepped out of character by headlining their match report with Chinese symbols, accompanied by the translation "Who said these Chinese can't shoot?"

We seemed set to fulfil an ambition to play on such a famed pitch when our Dane School team reached the Ilford schools King George Hospital Cup Final, which was traditionally played at Ilford, with the takings going to hospital funds.

When the government, keen to avoid lost postwar production time, banned midweek afternoon football, our game was the first in the country affected. It made the front page of the London Evening News.

The Thursday afternoon final was switched to William Torbitt School's pitch, a bitter letdown for us. As was the final, which we lost to Beal Grammar.

Worse, with no stand like at Ilford for post-game presentations, we were told our losers' medals would follow later. Does 62 years still qualify as later?

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