Thriving Daggers and old suit from Ilford FC sees red

GREAT to see Dagenham and Redbridge making such a good job of it as a Football League Club. Their presence there would give a canary fit to the Ilford Football Club stalwarts I knew back in the days, were they still around today. Ilford s splendid Newbury

GREAT to see Dagenham and Redbridge making such a good job of it as a Football League Club.

Their presence there would give a canary fit to the Ilford Football Club stalwarts I knew back in the days, were they still around today.

Ilford's splendid Newbury Park ground was the first such I ever visited, following a return from war evacuation, a first-love I always retained an affection for.

But like their followers' faith, it got sorely tested in the early seasons after the war.

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The club had an enviable history in the amateur game, the expenses-only code of which it zealously upheld.

Which was fine, while the rest did the same. That this might not be the case became apparent to all but dwellers in the tallest of ivory towers.

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Yet, true blue Ilford persisted in living in a past which, like a good many pre-war matters, no longer existed. It was frustrating for supporters who could see the times painfully leaving their favourites behind.

I pursued the point with the club in later years on the Recorder, not to much avail.

I remember one official telling me he'd rather see Ilford FC playing in a public park than making the clandestine payment to players then allegedly rife, if unproven, elsewhere. He meant it too.

Well before that I'd done a first Ilford match report that could also have proved to be my last. The sports editor was forced to cry off at the last minute through some domestic crisis and I was hastily drafted in, having till then only covered Ilford District League games.

There was no time to collect the Ilford FC press pass from the sports editor.

With the teams taking the field when I got there, I stopped only briefly to tell the situation to a gateman who, of course, had never seen me before. I rushed up the outside stairs of the press box above the terraces in a corner of the ground, anxious not to miss a moment reporting my first Ilford game.

You treat lightly such worthies as gatemen at your peril. The game had just begun when a man crashed into the box, declared himself a club official and proceeded to go incandescent over my failure to observe press pass protocol.

Even to the teenaged me, he was making an inexplicable fuss, bellowing in my face at close range, breathing whisky fumes. The racket he kicked up was more entertaining to the fans on the terraces below than the match itself. Some start to my big day!

I was rescued by the presence among those fans of Recorder father and son compositors, Tom and Albert Long, who I'd not had time to register. Die-hard Ilford followers, they were also ever up for a bit of fun.

"Chuck him down here, Trev mate. We'll catch him," they yelled.

Foolishly the bombastic official bit it, and was bombarded with all kinds of ribaldry from the now tuned-in terraces and the linesman's head turned to see what was afoot.

Red-faced, the official did a runner, glowering.

First thing Monday he was in the Recorder offices, roaring about my conduct. That had perforce been exemplary because of my shock at his own.

Worst case, it could have resulted in the tin-tack for me. In fact, editor Basil Amps knew the man of old from his days as sports editor, and gave him short shrift.

"You'll never change, will you, Norrie? Nice to see you again," Basil chuckled.

At Ilford's next annual meeting the choleric Norrie was, unsurprisingly, not re-elected to the club committee.

Scant consolation for me had Basil not known the score, and my Recorder football reporting career had foundered on it launching.

Years later, Ilford FC provided an egg-facing I still shudder about. I'd given the reporting of their games and affairs to a friend involved at the club. A smarter guy than me would have sussed the conflict of interest potential. We were duly scooped when the opposition front paged Ilford were selling their ground and moving from the borough to share other premises.

Our Ilford correspondent admitted he'd long known all about it, but the club has asked that he didn't tell us.

For Pete's sake! The buck rightly stopped with me. More painful was Basil's askance look.

Out of that Ilford move, however, evolved today's thriving Dagenham and Redbridge club.

Successfully following a path their predecessors had so disdained.

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