International Bloaters were key players
PUBLISHED: 15:31 09 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:31 09 September 2019
It’s not cricket, football fans might grumble, because recently we reflected on the summer game in the Great Yarmouth neighbourhood. So to redress the balance, today we feature soccer.
Sorry, Gorleston supporters, but it is your old rivals at Wellesley Road in the spotlight focussing on postwar decades.
I am grateful to Robin Hambling, of Lawn Avenue, for supplying me with information plus copies of relevant match programmes from that era, the 1950s.
One was for the FA Cup qualifying round at Walthamstow Avenue. The threepenny programme says Yarmouth included Bobby Brennan, a Northern Ireland international and Norwich player.
"Brennan, Yarmouth's number 8, was playing his one and only season with Yarmouth Town. He was bought back by Norwich City for £1,000 and starred in the Canaries' famous FA Cup run," adds octogenarian Robin.
Also playing that afternoon were familiar local names like Derek Rackham and Eric Kirk - plus Fred Howell at right-half.
Fred and I were colleagues at the Mercury office in Regent Street where he was an advertising sales representative and later went to a Cambridge side as player-manager, I recall.
"I went to this match by coach and, if I remember correctly, we got hammered about 7-1," writes Robin.
Another programme is also of an FA Cup tie, the Bloaters travelling to Tooting and Mitcham United in 1950, a game attended by Robin's father.
Apparently it was one of the first football matches to be televised, but reception did not go beyond the London area.
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There was a special match at Arsenal's Highbury Stadium in 1947, but again, for technical reasons only viewers in the area could receive it - and anyway, TV sets were in only a very few homes then.
The programme notes for that cup fixture, home fans were informed that the Bloaters were semi-professional and finished third in the league in the first three post-war seasons. In 1948-49 the Eastern Counties League was enlarged by the addition of nursery sides from London area clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham, plus Norwich, Ipswich, Gillingham, Colchester and Chelmsford.
The Yarmouth side included ex-Spurs player Cliff Fairchild, the Bloaters first player-coach. Lining up with him was current player-coach and skipper O'Mahoney, a former Ireland international, Ipswich and Bristol Rovers captain and Wolves player. Several other players had league club experience.
But of all the detailed local soccer information passed to me by Robin Hambling, one in particular intrigued me as a matter of personal interest.
"I happened to be on a course in Bristol and went to see Bristol City playing at home against Stoke City," he recalls. "By sheer luck, I found that Coleman was playing. What a coincidence!"
Neville ("Tim") Coleman was Stoke's right-winger for that fixture, and the programme notes reported that he bought himself out of the Royal Air Force and signed for the Potters in January 1955.
"He has made the outside-right position his own, and created a record by scoring seven goals from the wing against Lincoln in season 1956-57."
That all prompted me to wonder if that free-scoring Stoke City, Yarmouth and Gorleston player Neville ("Tim") Coleman and me were once team-mates, loosely speaking.
I have never played football since forced to do so at senior school, but during my subsequent National Service at Royal Air Force Hopton there was a regular airman vehicle driver often granted leave-of-absence by our commanding officer to play football in civilian fixtures as well as service ones.
I am 99 per cent sure that was Tim Coleman, a taciturn fellow with little conversation. Alas, all that is a conundrum unlikely to be solved.
RAF Hopton, a radar unit, occupied two sites. The main one was off Coronation Terrace on Station Road, later converted into the Mariners Park holiday complex but is now residential. On the cliff-edge a mile away was the vital radar unit.