Fabulous memories of following Fifties Bradford football
MAURICE TILLOTSON, who played football for Huddersfield Town and Stockport County in the early Sixties, recalls the halcyon days of watching football in the 1950s
As the years passed there was no respite in my passion for football. Every weekend, after playing for my school team, I would set off on a bus or train, with three or four of my mates, to watch a Football League game.
Living in the small town of Silsden conveniently positioned me within reach of several clubs. Leeds United, Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue were easily accessible, and a private bus left Silsden, on a fortnightly basis, to make the comparatively short journey over the Lancashire border to Burnley, football giants as the Fifties turned into the Sixties.
The small town of Sisden with ‘Nab End’ in the background.
Every week during the football season, I had a choice of which game to watch, however I paid a high price for my indulgencies.
There were no hand-outs in our hard-up and needy family, therefore, the nine shillings and sixpence that I earned by delivering newspapers, each morning before going to school, was gobbled up every Saturday on buying bus and train fares, plus the entry fee at the game.
Nonetheless, considering my passion for the game, it was money well spent.
There was an atmosphere of safety and caring surrounding the communities of those post-war years of the 1950s where, as children, we could merge among the large crowds at Leeds United, Burnley and the Bradford clubs without any threat to our safety.
On several occasions, along with my friend Arthur, I made the trip to Manchester to watch both City and United. This was the pre-Munich ‘Busby Babes’ team, therefore, I must only have been 12 or 13 at the time.
To make such a bold excursion, and find my way from Silsden to the metropolis of Manchester, took a fair amount of nerve.
In those days, with minimal seating at Old Trafford and Maine Road, crowds of up to 50,000 crammed on to the terraces, yet youngsters were well-minded and overseen by the ordinary football fan.
These occasional trips to Manchester would entail me leaving home early in the morning (no school games scheduled), catching a bus to Keighley then Bradford, a train to Manchester, and then repeating the journey after the game, arriving back in Silsden late on Saturday evening.
If my parents were concerned about my whereabouts and safety, they never expressed it or tried to harness my enthusiasm. They knew that my obsession and passion for football was unquenchable.
In financial terms, the professional players of the Fifties were very poor relations to their contemporaries of today.
A miserly maximum wage of £20 per week was imposed on them, despite massive crowds passing through the turnstiles to watch them play.
However, to the football fans who flocked to the grounds to watch the games of that particular era, the stars were every bit as revered as their counterparts in modern-day football.
At Leeds United, I marvelled at the great John Charles, prior to his transfer to Juventus in Italy, while a fledging Jackie Charlton was starting to emerge on the scene.
John Charles Jimmy Mcilroy.
At Burnley, the smooth Irishman Jimmy McIlroy, Jimmy Adamson and Tommy Cummings were the stalwarts of a club preparing to make a major assault on the First Division title.
Youngsters such as the blond-haired striker Ray Pointer and full back Alex Elder were also beginning to force their way into the starting line-up.
Even at the lowly Bradford clubs, I was enthralled by the Jackson twins, Martyn Bates, George Mulholland and Derek Stokes at City; ‘Polly’ Ward, a tiny, abrasive but creative inside forward, and Alvin Williams, a tough-tackling centre half, at Park Avenue.
These were some of the players who I watched regularly, however, as with many things in life, the unaccustomed can always seem more alluring.
My infrequent sojourns to Manchester acquainted me with the glamour boys of English football in the form of United’s pre-Munich team. I idolised Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, Eddie Colman, Roger Byrne, Bobby Charlton and the rest of ‘Busby’s Babes,’ until that fateful day at Munich robbed English football of some its finest talent.
Duncan Edwards Tommy Taylor.
For many people, looking back from the 21st century, football in the 1950s may have seemed unsophisticated and drab, but in reality every visiting team who came to play at my regular haunts contained superstars of the game.
A teenage Jimmy Greaves at Chelsea, Tom Finney at Preston, Nat Lofthouse at Bolton, Johnny Haynes at Fulham, Bobby Mitchell, Len White (whom I later teamed up with at Huddersfield and Stockport) and Jackie Milburn at Newcastle, Billy Wright and Bert Williams at Wolves, Bert Trautmann (my manager at Stockport in later days) and Don Revie at Manchester City, Vic Groves and Jack Kelsey at Arsenal, Danny Blanchflower and Bobby Smith at Spurs and Blackpool’s two Stanleys, Matthews and Mortensen.
This list could go on and on, but suffice to say, these were a selection of players, in those uncomplicated days of the Fifties, who the crowds flocked to see.
Their exploits in the football stadiums throughout England instilled a passion for the game in the many thousands of supporters who turned up each week. In turn, this passion inspired many impressionable young minds (including my own) to strive for a career in professional football.