Anniversary of dad’s one Barking goal almost lost among list of club legends!
PUBLISHED: 15:00 07 May 2020
It was on May 3, 1969 that Tony Power netted his one and only goal for Barking in a 4-1 victory at Isthmian League rivals Oxford City.
And although the name of the then 18-year-old is unlikely to sound that familiar to any Blues fans of that time, it is a household name – for me!
Dad was born in Barking in 1951 – 10 years after England’s World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore – and went to Ripple Infants, a short walk from his Dawson Gardens home, and Bifrons Secondary Modern.
He was football mad as a youngster, played for club side Rippleway, as well as both schools and the Barking district.
“I remember seeing Trevor Brooking (another Ripple old boy) playing for Barking Schools over at Mayesbrook Park. He was a couple of years older than me,” he said.
“I played for the district all the way through school, but I didn’t get picked in my final year. The teacher, Mr Winters, picked nine of his own team from South East Essex Tech for the district squad that year. I was very upset as I knew I was a better player than most of them.”
After an Essex county trial at the old Colchester United ground, he got a chance at his home-town club, adding: “My uncle Arthur got me a trial at Barking and I was invited to come back the next week. We would train on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’d jump on the train at Upney station, one stop to Barking, walk down the hill, around the corner and between the shops to the (Vicarage Field) ground.
“I always felt my granddad was there watching, as he used to be the groundsman at Barking!”
It is most likely that this was prior to the 1968/69 season, which he spent mostly with the Barking reserve team around the same time as doing his printing apprenticeship at the Selwyn Press in Upton Park.
Although he did recall starting a first-team cup game at Tilbury and it turns out Barking won an Essex Floodlit League semi-final tie against the Dockers, 3-0 after extra time on August 13.
“Having never played on the left wing before, the manager John Evans told me to make ‘noisy runs’ on the left. They had a big centre-half, a Docker. who was a real tough bloke. Towards the end I was substituted,” he said, admitting it was ‘all a bit of a blur’ some half a century later, but also vaguely recalling being involved in other games at Sutton, Wycombe, Enfield and Dulwich Hamlet.
Checking the results for that season, Barking had played all of those sides by early October, then went on a 17-match unbeaten run in all competitions from November 12 until February 15.
But that streak came to a shuddering halt in an FA Amateur Cup quarter-final tie, which was more clearly remembered.
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“I was picked as first reserve for the game at Whitley Bay,” he said.
“We didn’t play well and lost 5-1. We were completely outplayed and some of the players were crying their eyes out in the dressing room afterwards.”
Having seen their dreams of a Wembley final shattered it is little surprise, but they would win nine of their last 13 league matches, including that 4-1 triumph over Oxford City, to finish in eighth place.
“I played well in that game and scored with a glancing header after a cross from the left, after which I got a good write-up and some praise from the manager,” he said.
“They used to tell me I would get in good positions without realising it!”
Dave Fifield netted his only two league goals of the season in the same match – “he was like me, in the reserves mostly, a workhorse who kept running” – and a certain Neville Fox was also on target.
Fox remains Barking’s all-time leading goalscorer with 242 goals between 1965-72 and is one of many legendary names from that time in the club’s history.
“He was an England amateur international, so was Peter Deadman, who was one of the more friendly people in the team, always willing to help you,” he added.
“Bobby Page was another one. I remember a training session where I was up against him at Mayesbrook Park, it was 10 minutes of one on one and I couldn’t get the ball off him. I wasn’t fit.
“Jimmy Wilsonham was another good player, very confident, and John Evans and Mel Jones were both Welsh amateurs.”
It was during one evening training session, while going up for ball, that a stray knee in the lower back led to no shortage of pain in the following years.
“I hurt my back and met my wife. Funnily enough our first date was at Barking Football Club,” he said.
Others followed at the likes of the Brewery Tap pub – across the road from where the Post office is now situated! – with the likes of school friend Stan Johnson, who played three games in goal for Barking in 1972/73, Jimmy Bishop and their partners.
But there was very little more football, until it came to teaching me how to kick with both feet, which led to my playing for William Bellamy, Robert Clack and Barking & Dagenham Schools, plus several seasons in the Echo League with Heron Park Athetic and Romford Royals – and media kickabouts at Highbury at the Emirates Stadium!
My younger brother followed a similar path, albeit as a goalkeeper, and played for the school, the district and with Echo League club Roma – alongside a certain Frank Lampard for the league rep side on one occasion. But neither of us got close to playing at Isthmian League level like dad, let alone scoring!
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