Stockport County (part 2).

Stockport County (part 2).

The 1965/66 season started very promisingly on both a personal and club level.   Stockport County had invested in several new players arriving from higher status clubs and there was an air of optimism surrounding the whole set up.   David Shawcross  and Billy Haydock arrived from Manchester City; Keith Allen and Dick Young from Grimsby Town, Harry Bunner from Bury, the diminutive winger, John Price from Burnley and further down the track, former Welsh International, Len Allchurch was signed from Sheffield United.   Another significant arrival, as the season progressed, was Norman Sykes from Plymouth Argyle; Sykes had arrived on the recommendation of no less than Malcolm Allison, who at that time was beginning to make great inroads at Manchester City.   With this string of players adding to the majority of the previous season’s squad, Stockport County supporters could look forward, with optimism, to the coming months.

david shawcross2
len allchurch3

.        Len Allchurch                                  David Shawcross.

On a personal front, my wife Lesley and I rented a house in a suburb of Stockport, this alleviated me from the drudgery of travelling over from Yorkshire each day, thus allowing me to concentrate more intensely on pre-season training.   To add to our pre-season build-up we were informed that we would partake in a short overseas tour to Germany.   This tour was arranged through the contacts of General Manager Bert Trautmann.   Even in the mid 1960’s Bert was still revered in his native country, Germany, for his exploits at Manchester City during the early post war period.   In all we played four games in Germany; one in Bochum, two in Frankfurt and one in Russelheim and fortunately for me I featured in the line-up on most occasions.   I felt to be in top form for these games and it was later reported, in the press, that both Managers; Porteous and Trautmann picked me as the most outstanding player of the tour.

Flying in against Bochum.

In Frankfurt we attended a civic reception along with West Ham United who had a pre-season friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt.   At that time West Ham had a star studded line-up which included the England captain Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst.   The three of them still had their greatest moments to come, in helping England to win the World Cup during following summer.   As lowly Fourth Division players we felt very much the poor relations to West Ham and there was little contact between us, however, as they were about to leave the banquet Bobby Moore walked across the hall to where we were gathered to say hello and wish us all the best for our game.   For me, that simple gesture was the measure of a great England captain, and exemplified how the real top players in football usually have a modest approach to their relations with others.

Bobby Moore holding aloft the World Cup, with Hurst and Peters in attendance.

Back in Stockport we started the new season with some indifferent results, however, there was no chance of us struggling in the manner of the previous season, as there were far too many seasoned players in our ranks for re-election to be a problem.   Although competition for places in the starting eleven was more intense than in the preceding season, I was able to cement my place in the team, alternating between left and right wing back.   Our away form was inconsistent but we had some notable home victories, including a ‘top of the table’ clash against Barnsley, which attracted over fifteen thousand spectators to Edgely Park.   Even in games against lesser opposition we still attracted, up to, and beyond ten thousand people, which was more than the majority of clubs in the division above us were registering.

Unfortunately for our Team Manager, Trevor Porteous, our away form cost him his job, and he was sacked part way through the season.   Trevor was well respected by the players who had served under him for a reasonable period, and although some of his training methods could be considered outdated, he got the best out of his young charges.   The older players such as Len White and Frank Beaumont also had high regard for him.   I sensed that there might have been an uneasy relationship between Bert Trautmann as General Manager, Trevor as Team Manager and Victor Bernard as Chairman, particularly when our results were below expectations.   Ultimately, as Team Manager, Trevor was the sacrificial lamb.   Whatever the reasons for Trevor’s dismissal, Bert was now in charge of team matters, bringing in Eddie Quigley as Coach, and subsequently, Bert’s former teammate at Manchester City, Jim Meadows was appointed as assistant Coach.

After starting regularly for the first half of the season, inexplicably, my form became inconsistent and despite featuring in a memorable FA Cup victory on Merseyside against Tranmere Rovers I played irregularly for the rest of the season.   My last appearance for Stockport County was the last game of the season; an away fixture at Bradford Park Avenue.

Stockport County 1965/66 season.

As the PFA representative for Stockport County I regularly visited their headquarters in Manchester and had became acquainted with their amiable Secretary; Cliff Lloyd.   During one of my visits to his office I mentioned to Mr Lloyd that I would like the experience of playing football in Europe.   I had enjoyed the German tour with Stockport, and playing amongst Continental and South American’s in Canada, convinced me that the Continental approach to the game would suit me.   Mr Lloyd put me in touch with Harry Game, the English Manager of the Royal Antwerp Football Club of Belgium.   Harry Game flew over to England and watched me play in a reserve team match against Wigan Athletic, in the Cheshire League.   He was suitably impressed with my performance and negotiated with Bert Trautmann into allowing me a weekend off from Stockport, in order to play in a trial game for Royal Antwerp.

I flew to Belgium on the Friday prior to the Sunday match and managed to get in a training session with the Antwerp players.   It was quite a nerve racking experience trying to fit in with players from another country speaking a different language (Flemish), but some of the players understood English, and they were all very welcoming.   The match itself was against Sporting Chaleroi in the French speaking part of Belgium, and I played well enough for the club to negotiate a deal with me which would take me to Antwerp for the start of the 1966/67 season…….

antwerp v charleroi

I’m in action against Chaleroi with fellow defenders Robert Geens and Keeper Fons Mattysens.