The lasting legacy of our sporting heroes

HONOURED: Olympics silver medallist sprinter Anne Pashley, later an international opera singer, rec

HONOURED: Olympics silver medallist sprinter Anne Pashley, later an international opera singer, receives her framed civic certificate recording her athletics and arts achievements from the Mayor of Great Yarmouth, Susan Robinson, in 2006, a half-century after her relay success. - Credit: Archant © 2006

Armchair sports fans are well served by television, provided they subscribe to paid-for specialist channels whereas free-to-air TV usually provides only highlights. An exception is the four-yearly Olympic Games, available for us all to view, like those in Brazil closing this Sunday.

CHEERLESS: the grandstand on Gorleston recreation ground, home of the Greens, being demolished in 19

CHEERLESS: the grandstand on Gorleston recreation ground, home of the Greens, being demolished in 1992 after the club moved to Emerald Park.Pictures: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

In my pre-TV youth, we had to rely on BBC radio commentaries but there had been some improvement by 1956 when the minority with televisions hereabouts were able to see (albeit not live) local athlete Anne Pashley, then 21, run the first leg for Britain in the 4x100m relay at the Olympics in Australia.

Sixty years ago Britain beat the United States favourites into third place, winning silver medals. That was three years after Anne had been a world record holder with the British 4x220yd quartet in beating the Netherlands and had also established a new national 100yd sprint record of 11 seconds.

Off-track, she became an acclaimed opera singer of international renown.

The Pashley family moved to this area so father Roy could become an English master at Great Yarmouth Grammar School where he encouraged my ambition to enter provincial journalism. He and his wife were regular spectators at the much loved Gorleston Rollerdrome, watching daughters Doreen and Anne skating.

CUP TO CORNET: former England football star Martin Peters does some promotional work for Wall’s Corn

CUP TO CORNET: former England football star Martin Peters does some promotional work for Wall’s Cornetto on Yarmouth beach during his time with Gorleston FC. - Credit: Archant

Later, I believe, the Pashleys took over Hill’s Marine View, the prominent hotel on the corner of North Drive and Euston Road in Yarmouth before moving away.

Anne, long resident In France, briefly returned to Yarmouth a decade ago to be honoured at a civic reception.

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Our first Olympian suffered the great disappointment of being injured in a fall on board the liner carrying the British squad to the United States for the 1932 games in Los Angeles. Sprinter Stanley Fuller (dubbed “Flying Fuller”) did take part but understandably ran well below his best.

He was to become chairman of the Southtown-based family company J & H Bunn.

Sports aficionados have also been getting excited recently about the golden anniversary of England winning the football World Cup by beating old rivals West Germany 4-2 at Wembley Stadium in 1966. The nation has had little or no success in the international field since then.

They might as well celebrate that 50-year-old success because on current form, it looks unlikely that any significant trophy will come their way for a while, unless new manager Sam Allardyce succeeds in improving on the inept performance which led to England’s early exit from the Euros tournament last month.

One of those glory boys from the 1966 World Cup, Martin Peters, who scored England’s second goal, signed up to play for Gorleston Football Club in 1981-82, a coup engineered by chairman Jimmy Jones in a bid to boost attendances at Gorleston “Reccer” and produce more badly-needed revenue.

Peters’ pedigree was outstanding, having represented his country no fewer than 67 times, and in the twilight of his career his silky skills and soccer acumen with England, West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City and Sheffield United were still evident in the Eastern Counties League (or whatever it was called in those days) despite the football being more robust.

It was common practice for veteran professional footballers to stay in the game for as long as possible by lending their expertise to local clubs, for few had qualifications in any other sphere. Often managers and player-managers had known the big-time and were sometimes surprised at first to discover that their new teams lacked the techniques they had expected.

These ex-pros included Gorleston’s Mal Lucas in the Seventies (a Welsh cap and three league clubs) and Yarmouth Town’s Jack Bradley (with five league sides before becoming a publican at Ormesby).

One who graduated from Gorleston to a commendable professional career was Sammy Morgan who acquired 18 international caps for Northern Ireland before returning as the Greens’ player-coach.

You cannot write about the local football of yesteryear without mentioning home-grown hero Bert Brown, dubbed “Sailor” because of his rolling nautical gait and a favourite with fans not only on Gorleston Reccer but also at the grounds of league clubs Charlton Athletic (winning an FA Cup runners-up medal in 1946), Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa. He won wartime international caps for England.

When age ended his stay in the top flights, he headed back to his home town as player-manager of Gorleston FC, leading them to a memorable three-match FA Cup clash with league side Leyton Orient in 1951.

After drawing 2-2 at Orient’s Brisbane Road ground before 11,796 spectators, and holding the visitors to a goalless draw at the Reccer watched by a capacity 5000 crowd, the Greens were narrowly beaten in a 5-4 goal-fest in the second replay on a neutral ground – Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium – in front of a 12,000 crowd.

For that first replay on the Reccer, spectators – including me - not privileged to be in the packed small grandstand stood on stepped terraces made from upturned wooden bloater and kipper boxes being nailed together. It was on a Thursday afternoon – early closing day for shops but a normal day for everyone else...and we all wanted to cheer the Greens on.

Anticipating absenteeism, many work places closed, including two timber yards, after employees promised to make up for lost time. Truancy from school was also expected, some shutting, but my Yarmouth Grammar School surprisingly allowed its fifth-formers to visit the Reccer for what was described officially as “an educational football visit”.

It was an exciting game but neither goalkeeper was beaten in the 90 minutes plus extra time, so the second replay was in London...on a Monday afternoon!

At half-time the Greens were down 3-1, prolific striker Jackie Hunter having scored their goal. Chapman made it 3-2, but Orient added two more and looked set for an easy passage into the next round of the cup.

But Jimmy Guy (penalty, 82nd minute) and Hunter converting Brown’s 89th minute shot when the goalkeeper fumbled, made it 5-4. Gorleston were taking a corner when the referee blew the whistle for full time, and the possibility of a giant-killing feat were ended.