Modern Non-League History
1950-59 Fifties Football
The country had settled down in the much appreciate peacetime spirit and Football was certainly well established as the country’s most popular sport with big crowds flocking into stadiums, most of which were dominated by terraces and certainly needed development to improve general comfort.
Football League professionals were paid a maximum wage of £20 a week while the best amateurs were often offered financial incentives to change clubs. Semi-professionals in leagues outside the Football League, such as the Southern League often received more than their full time counterparts.
Sir Stanley Rous was the senior Executive at the Football Association and the Cup Finals of The FA Challenge Cup and The FA Amateur Cup were the respective highlights for the the English professional and amateur game.
The Football Association’s official FA Yearbook included a message from Sir Stanley and looking back at that decade its interesting to note some of the issues that were presented by the senior official.
He was convinced our national winter sport should be for ‘the common man’ i.e. the man on the terrace or on the park touchline, and their views should be heard. The genuine character of the British public’s love for the game would always support football but we must listen to their views.
With more and more football being televised, the game’s attraction would be enjoyed by millions but we should be careful not to become too serious about soccer. It is a game which still exists for people’s enjoyment. Referees should also receive guidance on their general attitude.
Public Institutions, (such as The Football Association) could quite naturally become set in their ways, they were apt to become too timorous of new ideas and cling to outmoded practices. For example, it was important that the development of floodlighting at matches and introducing more youth coaching and competitions for the young, should be considered important throughout the country.
Midway through the ‘fifties’ Sir Stanley’s worries included:-
Should there be less League games in a Season?
Should overseas clubs be invited to play more pre-season friendlies in England to help our general football education?
Examples of bad temper, lack of sportsmanship and flouting the referees decisions reflect badly on the individual, the game, the club, the league and the country and can scarcely be too harshly deplored.
Winning is important, but not if it means losing self respect, not to mention public support.
Should there be a National Youth League?
With all young men expected to do National Service, should professionals be exempt?
The lifting of Entertainment Tax is welcomed, but more money must be made available for the game to improve facilities and provide better coaching for the young throughout the country.
As the Fifties were coming to an end Sir Stanley Rous had some more warnings for us all.
Sir John Wolfenden to enquire into the condition of all forms of sport.
More Games instructors to be made available at public parks with more free-lance coaches encouraged to help all sports at all purpose recreation centres, plus better social facilities at sports grounds of all sizes
Much more must be done to attract the youth of the country into football clubs to train, play and watch.
More coaches and more playing fields must be found.
Air travel and television makes international football more popular for all ages.
Sunday football should be recognized.
Has a Ministry of Sport been considered ?
We must preserve our sense of values and keep things in perspective:-
a serious approach to the game must not lead to our forgetting that we are dealing with a game-this itself should always be more important than the result. Determination to excel can become evil- and ridiculous- when it leads to foul play, gamesmanship and turning the referee into a scapegoat for failure. Every player and spectator should remind themselves of this.
Thank you Sir Stanley Rous. We know you cared.
What a pity the warning wasn’t taken more seriously.
Publications & Articles
1950-1951 Day & Mason Football Annual - 30 pages - 1/-
Review of the Season with features, good action and team photos plus fixtures.
1950-1951 Football Parade and Soccer Spotlight both - 16 pages - 1/3d
Sixteen Portrait photos suitable for autograph collectors
1950-1951 The Sporting Mirror - 16page Weekly magazine - 6d
Good balance of news, features well illustrated
1951 All Football Newspaper - 8page weekly - 2d
News, football pool stats - small adverts.
1951 Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly - 50 pages 1/6d
Features and photos of football at all levels.
1951-1952 Sport - 16 pages weekly - 6d
News, features, refereeing article- football pools- fixtures- team photo cover.
1958 Soccer Star (Launched in 1953) - weekly 20 pages - 9d
News, features, pools, swaps, fixtures and line ups.
Daily Mail Annuals
Some outstanding cup runs were achieved by seven clubs representing five leagues and some famous scalps claimed in this decade have remained wonderful memories in FA Cup history Walthamstow Avenue were playing in the amateur Isthmian League and included well known personalities such as ace striker Jim Lewis (five goals in the six ties) and famous cricketer Trevor Bailey.
Semi-professionals Bedford Town set out on their famous cup run in The First Qualifying Round in 1955. The early rounds were fought out by groups of four clubs all drawn on a regional basis. After three rounds, the last one standing would move on to The 4th Qualifying Round and The Eagles put the highly respected amateurs from Walthamstow firmly in their place with a 6-0 thrashing.
Bedford had the luck of the draw with two more home ties against London clubs. Firstly, the Athenian League club Leyton and then a League club Watford. Two victories brought a trip to a very special London club at Highbury where 55,000 Arsenal supporters were waiting to watch a slaughter.
Wembley Stadium 1952-53
Manager Kelly, an Irishman, who some of the press thought believed in leprechauns, obviously knew how to prepare his side. By all accounts his lads deserved more than their 2-2 draw, when they had a shot cleared off the line in the last few minutes at Highbury. They were also unlucky to lose the replay at home, when 15,000 saw Arsenal equalize with four minutes to go and win the game with an extra time goal.
One of the smallest clubs to hit the giant killing headlines was Rhyl from The Cheshire County League. Having disposed of two non-league giants in Scarborough and Bishop Auckland, they travelled to Notts County and won 3-1, before Bristol City brought the run to an end at Ashton Gate. In the same 1956-1957 campaign, New Brighton celebrated their return to the competition proper as a non-league club, having lost their Football League place in 1951. They completed an impressive ten FA Cup ties having started right at the beginning in the Preliminary Round.
I remember listening on the radio to Tooting & Mitcham‘s wonderful battle in the snow against Division One club Nottingham Forest. Many games had been postponed, but The Tooting groundstaff had worked wonders, although some of the 14,000 supporters had doubted the sense in playing, as first team and second team goalkeepers were unavailable and young Secker, the third choice, would be playing in his first cup tie.
The game will always be remembered for mid field stalwart Murphy’s involvement. In the first half his glorious goal had ensured ‘The Terrors’ went in for half time with a two goal lead. However, a second half pass back caught his young keeper by surprise and his hotly disputed hand ball gave the First Division club the chance to equalize from the penalty spot. Sadly for Tooting they were well beaten in the replay.
The biggest name to suffer FA Cup disgrace in this decade was Liverpool, who lost at Worcester City (58-59), but at the time ‘The Reds’ were only a Second Division club, who had lost 1-9 to Worcester City’s near neighbours Birmingham City just four seasons previously!
The two leagues with most clubs featuring as giant killers in ‘The Fifties’ were The Southern League and The Midland League followed, way behind, by The Isthmians and The Cheshire League.
However, the really outstanding results were produced by Midland Leaguers Boston United 6-1, winners at Derby County (55-56) and Southern League’s Hereford United who beat Q.P.R. by the same score at home in 57-58.
Some high scoring thrillers were enjoyed by Buxton who beat Aldershot 4-3 in 1951-52, little Rhyl who beat Halifax Town by the same score two years later and ‘The Non-League FA Cup Team of the Decade’ Peterborough United joined in with a 5-4 defeat of Lincoln City in a Third Round Replay in 1956 -1957 and a 4-3 success against Shrewsbury Town in 1959-60.
‘The Posh’ certainly impressed the football world in ‘The Fifties’ by also beating Torquay United, Aldershot, Ipswich Town, Bradford PA, Walsall and Shrewsbury Town for second time. The ambitious Midland League club featured in The FA Cup competition in seven of the ten seasons. Qualifying for The Fourth Round twice, The Third Round Twice, The Second Round twice and one defeat in the First Round.
The club attracted regular five figure cup attendances and the nickname of ‘The Posh’ certainly underlined their Football League ambitions and it was no surprise when they were elected to The Football League in 1960 supporters of League Clubs who suffered the disgrace of losing to non-league opposition in the FA Cup must have felt embarrassed, but in this decade the shame can be shared by Halifax Town, Ipswich Town, Millwall, Stockport County and Watford all of whom lost three times to the ‘underdogs’ and poor Crystal Palace who achieved their ‘hat trick’ in three consecutive years (1952-1955), losing away to Finchley (Athenian League), Great Yarmouth Town (Eastern Counties League) and home to Bishop Auckland (Northern League)!
Football had certainly welcomed The FA Cup back into the country’s sporting life and there had been plenty of excitement for us all to enjoy in ‘The Fifties’.
THE FA AMATEUR CUP
With Wembley Stadium now accepted as the regular venue for The FA Amateur Cup Final, the competition had even more glamour and the amateur season had the chance of an exciting climax.
Another boost to the general image of non-league football was the emergance of Pegasus, a club made up of Oxford and Cambridge University ‘blues’ many of whom had benefitted from two years national service before their University course, so were mature, fit and educated athletes.
Pegasus didn’t play in a league and they didn’t have an enclosed ground so played just about all their games away from home. Should such a club be allowed in The FA Amateur Cup ? There were murmers about favouritism, especially as their chairman, Professor Thompson was a high ranking member of the Football Association.
The club had been coached by Arthur Rowe, who, with Vic Buckingham, had been responsible for Tottenham Hotspur’s great success playing with a ‘push and run style’ well known to The Brazilians and was to be adopted by the Barcelona and Spanish modern sides.
F.A. Amateur Cup 1950-51
1st Round - Gosport Borough A 4-3
2nd Round - Slough Town A 3-1
3rd Round - Brentwood & Warley A 3-2
4th Round - Oxford City A 3-0
Semi-Final - Hendon N 1-1 at Arsenal
S-F Replay - Hendon N 3-2 at Crystal Palace
Cup Final - Bishop Auckland N 2-1 at Wembley
F.A.Amateur Cup 1952-53
1st Round - Hayes A 4-2
2nd Round - Cockfield H 5-0
3rd Round - Corinthian-Casuals A 1-0
4th Round - Slough Town A 2-0
Semi-Final - Southall N 1-1 at Arsenal
S-F Replay - Southall N 2-1 at Fulham
Cup Final - Harwich & Parkeston N 6-1 at Wembley
Their two finals at Wembley attracted 100,000 crowds and amateur football enjoyed a high profile. The rivalry between the North Eastern clubs from the hot bed of football and the Home Counties clubs from The Isthman and Athenian Leagues was intense so, a fresh winner from a completely different background was probably good for the game.
The fifties FA Amateur Cup Winners were :
Pegasus 2 plus:-
Northern League: Bishop Auckland 3, Crook Town 2 and Willington
Isthmian League: Walthamstow Avenue and Woking.
1953-1954 - Crook Town captain Bob Davison and his squad celebrate with FA Amateur Cup.
In fact Bishop Auckland featured in four consecutive Wembley Finals between 1954 and 1957 and won the last three of them.
The popularity of the competition can be gauged by the fact that when Pegasus beat Bishop Auckland in the 1951 Final, the competition had kicked off with an extra Preliminary Round of 41 ties and then a massive Preliminary Round of 144 in which clubs like HMS Daedalus, RAF (Cranwell), Taunton British Railways all qualified for the First Qualifying Round (90 games).
By the time The First Round Proper was reached 324 clubs had been eliminated and it was interesting to note that drawn matches were replayed until a result was achieved.
We Want to Hear From You!
Tell us your stories and send us photos through our FaceBook page. Click here to join us.