World Cup star Peters in Gorleston FC squad

ALTHOUGH the British football season is officially over, there will still be plenty for the fans to enjoy – or grumble about – during the summer when Euro 12 starts next Friday. How will England fare? Perhaps they will surprise us with their performance in the same way that Norwich City made a remarkable debut in the Premiership.

On the domestic front, it has been sad to see Great Yarmouth Town struggling on pitch and off, being bottom of the Ridgeons League, while Gorleston achieved mid-table status. Long gone are the days when local derbies between the two sides at Wellesley Road or “the Reccer” drew animated big crowds and evoked fierce but friendly rivalry.

Yarmouth Pleasure Beach supremo Jimmy Jones, who died recently aged 73, was influential in both Norwich City and Gorleston soccer circles, having once been vice-chairman and a director of the Canaries and chairman and honorary vice-president of the Greens. It was Jimmy who persuaded the club in the early 1980s to move from the borough council-owned Gorleston recreation ground after almost a century to the purpose-built Emerald Park.

Brian Bunn, in his comprehensive book Evergreen detailing the history of Gorleston FC from 1887 to 2002, explained the reasoning behind this momentous decision: the borough council had been increasingly obstructive towards the Greens by refusing the application to build a new clubhouse on the Reccer and also postponing several matches club officials thought could have been played.

“This meant the club no longer felt they were masters in their own house,” he wrote.

I recall that in those early years at the new venue, when I covered home fixtures there in fairly primitive conditions (like duck-boards to cross soggy bits), Jimmy had this vision of a glazed and heated press box with a telephone for run-of-play reports to be sent to the Pink Un without reporters having to leave the ground at half and full-time, jump into a car and search for a public phone box that was vacant and working.

By the time you had returned to the ground after phoning in your report, the second half was well advanced and you had to ask who had done what, and when.

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I have not been to Emerald Park for years, but doubt if Jimmy’s vision ever materialised.

About the same time that the switch from the Reccer to Emerald Park was being planned, Jimmy also attracted headlines by announcing that none other than England 1966 World Cup winner Martin Peters was to play for Gorleston. Martin – former West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City star, with 67 international caps - was working for one of Jimmy’s businesses and, aged 37, had been persuaded to sign a year’s contract with the Greens.

Jimmy reasoned that the presence of a player of his stature would draw crowds of extra spectators to home matches, thereby increasing revenue. But Brian Bunn records: “Sad to report, this didn’t happen, and after initial press interest had died down, the gates soon fell back to their normal levels.”

There was no star superiority about Martin Peters, for he was always approachable, friendly, polite and articulate, living up to his nice-guy image. On the pitch, he possessed vision, influence, control and passing precision which were a great asset to the reigning league champions, and his partnership with ex-Northern Ireland international Sammy Morgan (a local lad who had played for Aston Villa and Port Vale) was a fruitful one.

That season (1981-2) Peters scored four, Morgan eight – but they were overshadowed by the prolific Kevin Ready (47) and Kevin Woodcock (26).

Peters’ first game was not at home but at Thetford where his name caused the usual gate to double. In the 29th minute the smooth ex-international in the number eight shirt curled a swift free kick over the Thetford wall...and Rod Hacking put Gorleston ahead. Morgan scored the second, Hacking added a third, with Peters inspiring and orchestrating.

Micky Woods supplied the pass which allowed Peters to open his Gorleston tally and give his side a 4-0 win.

Full-back Trevor Harmer commented: “Who’d have thought that a player like that, a World Cup star, would be sitting in the same dressing room in the same team as you! It’s a marvellous thought, but will we be able to to think along the same lines when he starts laying off passes?”

As for Martin Peters, he said: “As I said to the lads before the game, no one man makes a team. I need their help as much as they need mine. I enjoyed the game and it’s nice to win.”

His goal? “It was hard to miss...but I did have visions of putting it wide.”

Others who wore green at Thetford were M Davies in goal, Peter Kirk, Terry Johnson, Colin Bottomley, Brian Cockrill, Martin Woolsey, Kevin Ready, Sammy Morgan and Marty Hubble.

My eldest son, a teenager on Gorleston’s books who later joined the first XI squad, dashed home from a Greens’ five-a-side training session to announce: “Guess who was in my team tonight? Martin Peters!”

Before either Jimmy Jones or Martin Peters was born, in the 1931-32 season Gorleston fared exceptionally well. Elsewhere on this page is a photograph of that Greens’ squad in front of an impressive array of silverware that proves the point about the successful season.

It was the year when the Greens retained the Norfolk and Suffolk League title, sealing it with a 5-1 thrashing of the Bloaters on the Reccer in front of 3000 spectators. They won the Norfolk Senior Cup for the second time in three years.

Top scorer in 1931-32 was Eddie Woods – for the seventh time in eight seasons. According to Brian Bunn, his “massive tally” was 46 goals. In the line-up is goalkeeper Dick Campling who was still playing for the Greens postwar when I started watching them.

In those far-off days, of course, nobody had devised systems like the diamond and 4-4-2 – it was all 2-3-5 and positions had quaint names like inside-right, centre-forward and left-half. Substitutes? Those were several decades distant: an injured player either left his team a man short, or limped along as a passenger on the wing.