The Råsunda’s Last Hurrah (AIK)

When one of FIFA’s official ten classic world stadiums was having its last game, I felt compelled to be there. Even if AIK (Allmänna Idrottsklubben) somehow qualify out of their Europa League Group F, the first knockout round home tie would be played at their new home in the Friends Arena, all shiny and new and with a liberal splashing of UEFA-sanctioned santiser no doubt.

A little over 75 years old the curtain comes down on the Råsunda Stadion, a much loved institution, it’s 36,000 capacity deemed too low for UEFA’s liking and Sweden’s hosting of the 2013 Women’s European Championship. Situated in the suburb of Solna, the stadium is a saucy melange of single tier, double tier and triple tier stands the result of periodic piecemeal redevelopment. The miniature roof mounted floodlight pylons are redolent of the white plastic Subbuteo lights that allowed evening kick offs on the hallowed green baise of my childhood.

I wondered what the atmosphere would be like on the final encounter, would it be a teary farewell or would there even protests against moving to the Friends Arena. After scaling the stairs to the vertiginous upper tier of the North Stand, I realised it would be neither, AIK were in the mood for a party to send the Råsunda off in style. Banners lay at the front of the stand and every seat had its appropriate piece of coloured plastic waiting for lifting at the appropriate moment.

Just before kick off the decibel level rose, AIK anthems were sung ever more lustily and the “Legends of Råsunda” banners enveloped the upper tier. Fireworks crackled and soared into the cold night sky. It was a total joy to be part of it.

The match was almost secondary to the occasion, Edison Cavani, the star Napoli striker, lissom of movement and fleet of foot, spoilt the occasion somewhat by bagging an injury time winner.

It was terribly sad to see tractors and demolition gear lined up outside, preparing to raze this historic stadium to the ground with seemingly indecent haste. However, AIK sent the Råsunda to its imminent demise in fine style. Now one more time, with feeling!…Na na na na, Na na na na, hey hey hey Aw Ee Koi!

A.I.K. (1) 1 (Danielsson 35) SCC Napoli (1)2 (Dzemaili 20,Cavani 90+4)

Attendance:28,552

AIK:

27.Ivan Turina; 16.Martin Lorentzson; 3.Per Karlsson; 2.Niklas Backmann; 4.Nils-Eric Johansson(c); 15.Robin Quaison; 20.Ibrahim Moro; 7.Helgi Danielsson; 28.Viktor Lundberg; 10.Celso Borges; 75.Mohamed Bangura.

Subs: 5.Robert Ahman Persson; 6.Daniel Tjernström; 13.Kenny Stamatopoulos; 22.Kwame Karikari (for 15,76 mins); 24.Daniel Gustavsson; 29.Gabriel Özkan; 45.Daniel Majstorovic.

Napoli:

22.Antonio Rosati; 55.Alessandro Gamberini; 5.Salvatore Aronica (c); 5.Miguel Britos; 16.Giandomenico Mesto; 4.Marco Donadel; 85.Valon Behrami; 8.Andrea Dossena; 20.Blerim Dzemaili; 7.Edinson Cavani; 9.Eduardo Vargas.

Subs: 1.Morgan De Sanctis; 11.Christian Maggio; 13.Omar El Kaddouri; 17.Marek Hamšík (for 20,73 mins); 18.Juan Zuniga (for 16,64 mins); 28.Paolo Cannavaro; 88.Gokan Inler (for 4,62 mins).

Yellow cards: Backmann and Moro (AIK), Cavani and Behrami (Napoli)

Red card: Aronica (Napoli)

Gallery

And the morning after the night before

Pigeons or Fighters (Hajduk Beograd)

After the craziness of the derby, the Sunday morning fixture in the Serbian Srpska Liga (Belgrade Area) could have been a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show. The third tier fixture between FK Hajduk Lionu and FK Zemun took place at the Stadion Hajduka na Lionu, home of “The Pigeons” since 1953. Pigeons seemed a somewhat of an ill-fitting nickname for a Serbian football team, however, Hajduk itself translates as “fighters” so maybe this is more suitable.

The ground itself is interesting, hemmed in at both ends by flats, tall nets preventing balls landing on residents’ balconies. The near side has a smart clubhouse, dressing rooms and a scaffolding and wooden plank stand which was rammed for this 11.00am match. Opposite is a pitch length uncovered terrace, the left hand end being segregated with its own entrance for visiting fans. Zemun’s supporters arrived just before kick-off and in impressive numbers. Their match-long singing would preclude any possibility of a lie in for the local residents. There was edginess to their chanting, local reports of anger at the release of a Croatian warmonger was said to be the cause of their ire. The Zemun fans covered the fencing with colourful banners including one of, presumably, a heavily bearded Serb leader.

The Pigeons started the stronger and took the lead early on when full back Hema Tolovic lashed in a powerful strike. This goal separated the sides at the break. Zemun grew into the game, their young coach loudly berating his charges. His voluble instructions and the constant support of their ultras had the desired effect when skipper Nikola Rnic curled in an unstoppable free kick. Zemun looked like they were in the ascendancy and this was borne out when Rnic’s free kick was nodded in by centre back Borislav Terevic. The Zemun coach ran on the pitch to celebrate with his players, only to be ordered from the bench by the punctilious referee. This caused several moments of comedy when first a security guard and then an elderly Hajduk supporter stood in front of him to ensure he complied with the referee’s wishes. Like a caged tiger he paced at the back of the stand until the final whistle.

The whistle sounded and the Zemun players joined their supporters to celebrate a deserved victory over the course of the 90 minutes.

FK Hajduk Lionu Beograd (1)1 (Tolovic 13) FK Zemun (0)2 (Rnic 73, Terevic 84)

Attendance: 400 (approx)

Hajduk:

Dragoslav Poleksic; Hema Tolovic; Philip Belak; Milan Nisnic; Predrag Topuvic; Marko Tepavievic (c); Aleksandr Stamenkovic; Dejan Filipov; Ernes Dalifi; Bojan Bazhovic and Zdravko Kovacevic.

Subs: Milan Pantelic; Marko Zhivkovic (for Stamenkovic,46 mins); Sasa Paunovic (for Kovacevic,79 mins); Zoran Curic; Sasa Filipovic; Igor Milovic; Marko Vujovic.

Zemun:

Bojan Knezevic; Milos Zivkovic; Marko Rajovic; Nikola Rnic (c); Mirko Vunevievic; Borislav Terevic; Milos Terevic; Milos Malovac; Nikola Vukailovic; Nikola Moisilovic; Igor Miladinic and Dino Dolmajic.

Subs: Marko Pavlovic; Marko Divjak; Monsto Stojakovic; Philip Savic (for Moisilovic,88 mins); Stefan Okrebo (for Dolmajic,58 mins); Dejan Vukojevic; Goran Vukovic (for Vunevievic,63 mins).

Gallery

The Eternal Derby

My write up and gallery for the Eternal Derby, Red Star v Partizan in Belgrade on Saturday will be exclusively featured in Issue 3 of the superb Stand AMF fanzine, available from standamf.com from December 6th at the ridiculous price of £2.

In the meantime here are statistics from the game and a few pictures as a preview.

FK Crvena Zvezda (1)3 (Kasalica 14, Milivojevic 49, Milijas 74)  FK Partizan (2)2 (Mitrovic 9, Jovanovic o.g. 16)

Attendance: 44,155

Red Star:

1.Bojan Bajkovic; 15.Milan Jovanovic; 14. Nikola Mikic; 25. Filip Mladenovic; 5. Uros Spajic; 10. Nenad Milijas (c); 8.Darko Lazovic; 19.Luka Milivojevic; 4.Srdan Mijailovic; 17.Filip Kasalica; 91.Ognjen Mudrinski.

Subs: 29.Marko Vesovic (for 14,46 mins); 16.Luka Milunovic (for 8,68 mins); 7.Milos Dimitrijevic (for 10,85 mins).

Partizan:

30.Nikola Petrovic; 18. Aleksandar Lazevski; 2.Aleksandar Miljkovic; 15.Ivan Ivanov; 40.Milos Ostojic; 22.Sasa Ilic (c); 99.Milan Smiljanic; 7.Nemanja Tomic; 21.Sasa Markovic; 50.Lazar Markovic; 45.Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Subs: 39.Milos Jojic (for 7,65 mins); Stefan Scepovic (for 22,80 mins), Nikola Ninkovic (for 50;85 mins).

Yellow cards: Mladenovic, Milivojevic, Mijailovic, Kasalica (Crvena Zvezda); Smiljanic, L.Markovic, Mitrovic (Partizan).

Gallery

Heroes and Gravediggers (FK Crvena Zvezda)

So the Lav is slipping down a treat in the Three Carrots in Knesa Milosa when Nenad, an affable Red Star fanatic, hands me my ticket for the derby match tonight, “Don’t worry it’s free” he says when I look to pay him. “How’s it free I ask?”, “Ah, tickets they appear like magic here”. Soon we pile onto a bus downtown and within minutes we are at the Stadion Crvena Zvezda, an hour before the 7pm kick off and it’s loud already inside and out. There is, of course, a heavy police presence but I see no trouble and do not feel intimidated in the slightest, everybody is just excited.

Everything is in place for a night to remember, giant old school eastern-bloc floodlights loom over the proceedings and the atmosphere builds. The Delije (“Heroes”) are gathered in vast numbers in the north stand and their bitter rivals the Grobari (“Gravediggers”) are at the other end. The south stand has been shorn of its seats so the visitors cannot throw them onto the pitch. What is noticeable is that there are two sectors of the Partizan fans, the bulk of the Grobari are under the electronic scoreboard but to their right and separated by an empty sector and lines of riot police and stewards are a smaller section, the Zabranjeni (The Forbidden), a group of outcast Grobari excommunicated in 2011 for the treacherous crime of accusing the Grobari hierarchy of turning police informant and of stealing money earmarked for tifo displays.

The players emerge from the underground tunnel and this acts as the cue for the Delije to start their spectacular tifo display. Flares so numerous the entire end appears at times to be on fire and beautiful, powerful fireworks are propelled into the night sky from launchers at the front of the stand. Soon however Red Star fall behind, they cannot lose this, a defeat will see them fall eleven points behind Partizan. It’s the Grobari’s turn to get the pyrotechnics going, though they seem more intent on exchanging flares with the Zabranjeni. The home side level with a superb volley, only to fall behind to a comedic own goal moments later. Jesus, 17 minutes gone and you can barely take it all in.

Red Star level the encounter just after the break and when the match looks like a stalemate, the home skipper knocks in the winner. The stadium literally erupts and the noise levels increase further still. The Delije rub salt into the Partizan wounds by unveiling a Grobari banner which they had previously stolen and taunting their rivals by singing “This is yours, come and take it back”. The match ends and it is notable that the Delije and the Grobari are let out at the same time, the Zabranjeni, however, remain locked in their sector at least an hour after the final whistle.

So that was the 143rd edition of the “Eternal Derby”. What was notable from this epic clash was sensible refereeing, no booking players for celebrating with their fans. Also the security and policing was heavy, but low key and effective. Of course, more than anything, the colour and the noise will live with me always. For Belgrade, Red Star and Partizan, do a derby match as well as anyone in the world, unbridled passion, noise and above all fun. Just like football was always supposed to be.

(A version of this article also appears in the third edition of the outstanding magazine Stand AMF. For great football writing and photos, please visit http://www.standamf.com)

FK Crvena Zvezda (1)3 (Kasalica 14, Milivojevic 49, Milijas 74) FK Partizan (2)2 (Mitrovic 9, Jovanovic o.g. 16)

Attendance: 44,155

Red Star:

1.Bojan Bajkovic; 15.Milan Jovanovic; 14. Nikola Mikic; 25. Filip Mladenovic; 5. Uros Spajic; 10. Nenad Milijas (c); 8.Darko Lazovic; 19.Luka Milivojevic; 4.Srdan Mijailovic; 17.Filip Kasalica; 91.Ognjen Mudrinski.

Subs: 29.Marko Vesovic (for 14,46 mins); 16.Luka Milunovic (for 8,68 mins); 7.Milos Dimitrijevic (for 10,85 mins).

Partizan:

30.Nikola Petrovic; 18. Aleksandar Lazevski; 2.Aleksandar Miljkovic; 15.Ivan Ivanov; 40.Milos Ostojic; 22.Sasa Ilic (c); 99.Milan Smiljanic; 7.Nemanja Tomic; 21.Sasa Markovic; 50.Lazar Markovic; 45.Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Subs: 39.Milos Jojic (for 7,65 mins); Stefan Scepovic (for 22,80 mins), Nikola Ninkovic (for 50;85 mins).

Yellow cards: Mladenovic, Milivojevic, Mijailovic, Kasalica (Crvena Zvezda); Smiljanic, L.Markovic, Mitrovic (Partizan).

Gallery

Ultra Boys Memorial

Delije

Match programme

Match ticket

Friendly Fire

A look at ten Southend United friendly programmes for no other reason except they are a bit unusual.

May 4th 1970

Southend United (0)0 AC Fiorentina (1)1

The Blues welcomed the reigning Italian champions to Roots Hall at the end of the 1969/70 season. A healthy crowd of 8,679 saw Giorgio Mariani score the only goal of the game to give the visitors a victory.

Team: Brian Lloyd; Keith Lindsey; Owen Simpson; Phil Chisnall; Dave Barnett; Micky Beesley; Peter Hunt (sub Peter Taylor); Billy Best; Bill Garner; Gary Moore and Dave Chambers (sub Pack).

August 10th 1970

Southend United (1)5 Accra Hearts of Oak SC (1)1

Three months later the Blues welcomed Hearts of Oak to Roots Hall. The programme features Stanley Matthews on the cover as he had been coaching in the West African country. A crowd of 3,193 watch Blues run riot in the second half with goals from Phil Chisnall (2), Billy Best, Bill Garner and Peter Hunt.

Team: Brian Lloyd (sub Steel); Keith Lindsey; Owen Simpson; Phil Chisnall; Alex Smith; Kevin Fallon (sub Dave Barnett); Ian Cowan; Billy Best; Bill Garner; Tony Bentley (sub Peter Hunt) and Dave Chambers.

August 5th 1971

Shinnik Yarosavl (1)1 Southend United (0)0

A bit of an oddity this one as the last game of the Blues tour to Russia produced two programmes, both 4 page issues but with different covers. A decent crowd of 12,000 watched this match.

Team: John Roberts; Keith Lindsey; Alex Smith; Dave Elliott; Brian Albeson; Joe Jacques; Terry Johnson (sub Peter Taylor); Billy Best; Bill Garner; George Duck and Ray Ternent.

 

November 6th 1972

Southend United (1) 1 Zenit Leningrad (1)1

Blues’ tour to Russia the previous year had been so successful a promised visit from a top Russian side occured when Zenit Leningrad came to Roots Hall. A crowd of 3,988 saw a tight encounter with Bobby Bennett netting for the Shrimpers. Luton Town’s Robin Wainwright guested for Southend.

Team: Derek Bellotti; Dennis Booth; Ray Ternent; Dave Elliott; Brian Albeson; Mike Harrison; Terry Johnson; Billy Best; Bobby Bennett; Robin Wainwright and Peter Taylor (sub Gary Moore).

August 9th 1974

Southend United (3)7 Bonner Sport Club (0)0

Southend welcomed West German side Bonner to Roots Hall in the build up to the 1974/75 campaign. The visitors were a modest club and only 1,686 watched the Blues rattle in seven goals without reply. Finding the net for Southend were Chris Guthrie (2), Dave Cunningham, Steve Lamb, Terry Johnson, Neil Townsend and a Dave Elliott penalty.

Team: Malcolm Webster; Steve Dyer; Dave Worthington; Dave Elliott; Neil Townsend; Alan Moody; Stuart Brace (sub Steve Lamb); Andy Ford (sub Terry Johnson); Chris Guthrie; Dave Cunningham and Alistair Love (sub Willie Coulson).

August 4th 1975

Hamilton Academicals (0)0 Southend United (1)1

Tours to Scotland in the mid Seventies were very popular and Southend were no exception, this pre-season jaunt also taking in games at Forfar Athletic, East Stirlingshire and Raith Rovers. A crowd of 650 saw a Stuart Parker goal separate the sides at the old Douglas Park ground.

Team: Malcolm Webster; Dave Worthington; Tony Taylor; Terry Nicholl; Neil Townsend; Alan Moody; Ronnie Pountney; Stuart Brace; Stuart Parker; Willie Coulson and Dave Cunningham (sub Andy Ford).

August 12th 1983

Southend United (0)0 Japan International XI (0)1

Visitors from the Far East for this unusual pre-season game. Southend battled well against Japan but went down 1-0 to a 51st minute goal from Masafumi Yokoyama.

Team: Mervyn Cawston; Micky Stead; Steve Collins; Paul Clark; Steve Yates; Ronnie Pountney; Glen Skivington; Glenn Pennyfather; Greig Shepherd; Steve Phillips and Roy McDonough. Subs: Warren May; John Keeley; Mick Angus; Danny Greaves and Adrian Owers.

August 3rd 1988

Pollok (2)2 Southend United (2)3

Southend had a short tour of Scotland in the pre-season on 1988/89 which also took in a return visit to Hamilton Academicals. The first match was against junior side Pollok who played, and still do, at the excellent Newlandsfield Park in Glasgow. A respectable crowd of 1,200 watched a tight encounter with Southend’s goals coming from David Crown and a brace from Dave Matthews.

Team: Paul Sansome (sub Eric Steele); Danny O’Shea; Peter Johnson (sub Justin Edinburgh); Russell Short; Dave Martin; Paul Brush (sub Paul Clark); Derek Hall (sub Nicky Thurston); Peter Butler; David Crown (sub Dave Matthews); Richard Young and Martin Robinson.

June 30th 2006

Bermuda National XI (1)2 Southend United (0)3

Billed as a welcome home match for Shaun Goater, Southend played the national team of his home county at their National Sports Park. Goater played a half for either side, scoring twice for the Blues along with youngster James Lawson.

Team: Daryl Flahavan; Simon Francis; Che Wilson; Spencer Prior; Adam Barrett; Jamal Campbell-Ryce; Mitchell Cole; Kevin Maher; James Lawson (sub.Shaun Goater); Freddy Eastwood and Franck Moussa.

July 28th 2012

Real Madrid C (1) 3 Southend United (1)1

Played at the Spanish giants Valdedebas training facility Southend took on Real’s third team who compete in the third tier, Segunda B, of the Spanish League. Neil Harris gave the Blues a third minute lead but the hosts eased to a 3-1 win with goals from Ramirez, Mariano (penalty) and Burgui.

Team: Phil Smith; Sean Clohessy (sub Dave Martin); Anthony Straker (sub Luke Prosser); Kane Ferdinand; Ryan Cresswell (sub Graham Coughlan);  Mark Phillips (sub Chris Barker); Kevan Hurst (sub Elliot Benyon); Ryan Leonard; Neil Harris; Gavin Tomlin (sub Freddy Eastwood) and Stephen Brogan (sub Ryan Hall). Sub not used: Daniel Bentley.

A Day When Football Really Did Come Home

Restage the 1872 FA Cup Final at the original venue of the Kennington Oval? What a jolly spiffing wheeze but the bounders at Surrey County Cricket Club would never let it happen! Except they did.

I have followed the activities of the revived Wanderers club since their 2009 reformation and the official restaging of the 1872 Cup Final was to be the biggest night of their rebirth so far.

Wanderers won the first ever FA Cup Final in 1872 when Morton Petto Betts, playing under the pseudonym of A.H. Chequer, scored the only goal of the game against the Royal Engineers. These days Wanderers compete in the lower levels of the Surrey South Eastern Combination while the Engineers, or more specifically 28 Regiment Engineers, are multi-time Army Cup winners. Suffice to say a repeat of the 1872 victory for Wanderers looked unlikely.

Interested spectators from far and wide gathered at The Oval in Kennington for the rematch, Wanderers in their traditional chocolate, pink and gold hooped shirts and the Engineers in navy and red hoops. FA Cup winner Bobby Gould guest coached the Wanderers for the event.

The superior fitness of the Engineers ensured the hosts were ran ragged in the first half, the army side rattling up a 6-0 lead with Wanderers goalkeeper Adam Wood facing a barrage of shots from the powerful Engineers front line. The Engineers made multiple substitutions at half time but it was a Wanderers substitute, the sublimely monikered, Daniel Flash, who received the loudest cheer of the night when he deftly headed in a goal for Wanderers seven minutes after his introduction to the field. A clever lob by Mike Crane, however, restored the six goal advantage.

The final whistle sounded with the score 7-1 to the Engineers and David Gold was on hand to oversee the presentation of the original trophy (his own property) to the victorious captain, James Hubbard.

Wanderers (0)1 (Flash 66)

Royal Engineers (6) 7 (Hubbard 9, Carter 17, Griffiths 21, Cottam 23,45, Ellis 33, Crane 87)

Attendance: 2,287 tickets sold (800 approx watching)

Wanderers:

1.Adam Wood; 2.Simon Fulwood; 3.Ross Sibbit; 4.Sean Hearn; 6. Ross Edmonds; 16. Tom Nicholson; 11. Darren Tracey; 8. Robert Goodall (c); 9.Guy Bird; 18.James Byrne; 14.Stephen Samson.

Subs: 19.Mark Wilson (for 9,59 mins); 10.Ashley Stokes (for 2,59 mins); 21.Daniel Flash (for 6,59 mins); 7.Tony Alvarez (for 18,63 mins); 23.Ed James (for 11,70 mins);15.Steven Bowers (for 6,76 mins); 32.Steve Bradley (for 4,76 mins); Sai Yung Ng (for 1,87 mins).

Royal Engineers:

1.Luke Cairney; 2.Dean Ellis; 3.Robert Cooper-Tompkins; 4.Gavin Greenfield; 5.Mike Williams; 6.Alex Stacey; 7.Gerwin Griffiths; 8.Alex Wright; 9.Andrew Cottam; 10.James Hubbard(c); 11.Paul Carter.

Subs: 12.Rob Ridley (for 2,46 mins); 14.Scott Ray (for 3,46 mins); 15. Mike Crane (for 19,78 mins); 16.Danny Hounsell (for 4,46 mins); 17. Tom Smith (for 6,46 mins); 18.Steven Bulger (for 8,46 mins); 19.Ryan Williams(for 9,46 mins)(for 5,89mins); 20. Chris Chianca (for 10,46 mins). Sub not used:Mathew Price.

Gallery:

Sticker Book XI

I have fashioned a half decent Southend United related team out of old football stickers and trade cards.

Goalkeeper: Paul Sansome

(Card: Pro Set 1991)

Key Attributes: Great shot stopper and a consistent perfomer.

Southend link: Goalkeeper from 1988 to 1997 during which time he amassed 357 appearances, more than any other Southend custodian. He edges Daryl Flahavan by just six appearances.

Right Back – Dean Austin

(Card: Merlin Ultimate Collection)

Key Attributes: Strong in the tackle, marauding forward runs with high quality crossing.

Southend link: 109 games for the club (3 goals) between 1990 and 1992 before being sold to Tottenham Hotspur

Left Back – Chris Powell

(Card: Merlin Premier Gold)

Attributes: Hard to dispossess, highly skilled and elegant player.

Southend link: 290 games (3 goals) for the Blues between 1990 and 1996. Sold to Derby and enjoyed a lenghty career with Watford and Charlton. Won 5 England caps.

Centre Back – Mike Lapper 

(Sticker: Panini USA ’94)

Attributes: Powerful in the air

Southend link: 59 games (1 goal) between 1995 and 1997 having played for the United States team in the 1994 World Cup.

Centre Back – Bobby Moore

(Sticker: Panini 1985)

Attributes: A great leader on the pitch and master of the drag-back tackle which would retrieve the ball even when an attacker had got past him.

Southend link: Blues manager between 1984 and 1986.

Right Midfield – Michael Kightly

(Card: Topps Match Attax 2010)

Attributes: Dazzling speed and superb delivery. Has an eye for a spectacular goal.

Southend link: Made 19 appearances (1 goal) before being discarded by Steve Tilson. Has subsequently carved a decent Premier League career with Wolves and now Stoke City.

Centre Midfield – Mike Marsh

(Sticker: Panini 1st Division 1997)

Attributes: Dominant tackler and supreme passer

Southend link: 97 games and 13 goals between 1995 and 1998.

Centre Midfield – Ronnie Whelan

(Sticker: Panini Euro 88)

Attributes: Quality midfield maestro had a much decorated career with Liverpool.

Southend link: 35 appearances, 1 goal. Less successful spell as manager.

Left Midfield – Peter Taylor

(Card: Topps 1978)

Attributes: Superb dribbler and incisive passer of the ball.

Southend link: 78 games and 13 goals for the Blues before joining Crystal Palace for a club record fee of £120,000. Won 4 England caps and also played for Tottenham. Later managed Southend between 1993 and 1995.

Centre Forward – Stan Collymore

(Card: Topps 1995)

Attributes: Supremely gifted centre forward, strong and fast.

Southend link: 18 goals in 33 games for Southend, before high profile spells with Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Fulham and Aston Villa. Widely regarded as Southend’s greatest ever player.

Centre Forward – Paul Sturrock

(Card: Topps 1979)

Attributes: Skilful left sided centre forward who could also play on the wing. Signed for Dundee United after scoring 52 goals in a season for Bankfoot.

Southend link: Southend manager since June 2010.

A Blues Legend

 

One of Southend United’s greats, Frank Dudley, passed away on Friday September 14th2012, aged 87. In 2006 I conducted the following interview with the former Blues centre forward who played for the club in the immediate post World War II years.

Born: Southend-on-Sea, May 9th 1925.

Professional Career:

                                                Appearances     Goals

Southend United (1945-49)                  92           33

Leeds United (1949-51)                        64           23

Southampton (1951-53)                       67           32

Cardiff City (1953-54)                             5            1

Brentford (1954-56)                             72           32

Can you tell me how you got started in football?

Can you tell me how you got started in football?

 Yes, it was 1945. I had always played football as a youngster with the Air Training Corps at that time. Somebody must have seen me playing and arranged for me to have two or three games with Southend United reserves, which I did. I thought I played terribly but they must have thought something because within a month they asked me to sign as a professional. This is in 1945 and that is how I got cracking in so much as after two or three weeks they put me in the first team and I really stayed there you know. 

What happened to you after you left school? 

I worked, do you know where Sainsbury’s is now? Well there used to be an outfitters place there called Holtby and Petty. They were credit drapers and mended suits and things and I used work there because I didn’t evacuate. The great majority of young people evacuated to the Midlands or somewhere but I stayed here so it was easy to get a job. I think really I was so keen on playing football even at a young age, perhaps ten or eleven, that it began to show then.

 What are you memories of your first team debut?

 I remember it very well, it was at the old Southend Greyhound track, the Stadium as they called it you know. To my amazement, the manager Harry Warren had called me in and said I am playing you against, I think it was Watford, on Saturday and he put me in. Again personally I thought I had a terrible game, I wasn’t at all satisfied with the game I was playing. But they must have thought there was something in it because they kept me going. Anyway after a while I started to score goals and that paid for itself really. 

Were you nervous on your debut? 

Yes, I was especially as I remember walking onto the field, against Watford I think, we came out in pairs and this old chap who was alongside me was about ten years older than me. He said I understand that this is your first first team game. I said yes it was, he said well you see that grandstand over there, I said yeah, he said well if you come anywhere near me this afternoon I will kick you right over the top. I thought what have I let myself in for? Anyway as it turned out I didn’t look back. 

How did you get on under Harry Warren? 

I got on quite well with him, I was only looking at a picture of him yesterday with me and he was a very fair minded sort of chap. I think he was instrumental in me going to Leeds from Southend, he had a lot to do with that. 

From your playing career at Southend, who was the best player you played alongside? 

The then captain was Jimmy McAlinden, an Irish international and a very very good player. 

How did the Southend fans take to you? 

Well I think they took to me quite well because I was a local chap you know. I dare say that there weren’t more that two or three local lads that made a career here, sometimes they would be transferred away from here. 

How did the move to Leeds United come about? 

Well it’s a bit of a long story so I will try and abbreviate it. I had a phone call from Harry Warren in the summertime to say would I go down to the ground, which I did, and he told me that this very well known manager at the time of Leeds United Major Buckley, he was a very well known chap in football and he had seen me play and wanted to sign me on. At first I wasn’t keen because I thought Leeds was along way away but when I saw it was the right move I went to Leeds. 

I believe the fee was £10,000 which was a sizeable fee at the time, did you feel under pressure about that? 

No not really, by then I had had four years playing at Southend, and by then I was quite confident in my own abilities especially as I was playing with better players as well you know. 

How do you think you adapted to the higher standard of football? 

Well, I did adapt although its true when I was with CardiffCity I was only there for a short period of time. I scored one goal and before I knew where I was I was transferred to Brentford. There was a difference in the class of play from one division to another but at the same time it wasn’t all that great and remember you’ve got good players with you. 

Who did you rate as the best player from your time at Leeds? 

There were a few but a chap named David Cochrane, who was an Irish international and he had been at Leeds before the War and after. He was undoubtedly a class player. 

In February 1951 you joined Southampton, can you tell me about that? 

Well the last person who ever finds out about anything is the player himself! You know its all cooked up between the powers that be I suppose, but I can remember it as if it was yesterday. In fact I have a press photo of me climbing aboard the train, looking very miserable, going down to Southampton to play for them. They were a good club, they weren’t one of these flashy clubs because they didn’t have the money, but I enjoyed playing for Southampton. They were a nice set of people there and it was a little bit nearer here as well so in the summertime one could come home here you know. 

You then played for Cardiff? 

That was actually in the top division, and things went wrong from the beginning in so much as I only there about six weeks or something like that and the next thing I knew Brentford came along. I will always remember it, we were living at that time in Central Avenue, here in Southend, and I was just on my way up to play for Cardiff when the telephone went. I was travelling on the Friday, and I was almost just going out of the front door when the telephone went and it was the manager of Brentford, a chap named Bill Dodgin, and he said I understand you’re going to Cardiff today, well I am ringing up to say don’t go. I said what do you mean don’t go? Well you’re travelling today, so there will be someone to meet you at Fenchurch Street and he will bring you over here to Brentford and we can talk. So I said what’s going on? He said well we want to transfer you and I said gosh this will be the third club I have had in about three months. Anyhow I met him and we went a hotel and I signed on and I was there for five years, which was to my astonishment because I wasn’t getting any younger.

 You scored well over a hundred goals in your career do any stick in your mind as being extra special or important? 

Well I actually scored 120 goals and I can remember some but I think the most amazing one of the lot was this one. I will never forget I was playing at Leeds and I got the ball out near the corner flag and there was a very well known goalkeeper, a German prisoner of War, named Bert Trautmann, he played in a Cup Final, you may remember, well he was in goal. When I got the ball by the corner flag, I started to weave my way in and before I knew where I was virtually on my own just out from the goal and I was able to slip the ball in past the goalkeeper. It seemed as though this went on for minutes but really it was probably about ten seconds. One of the press cuttings I have got said it was “a goal fit for filming”. I can remember it so well you know. Later when Bert Trautmann became even more famous as an ex prisoner of War, he became in my view became one of the best keepers that ever played. He had a terrible accident while playing for ManchesterCity you know, he broke his neck. 

You wound down your playing career with Folkestone, how did you find the transition from playing League football? 

Well I think I was averaging about five goals a game! It was walking football it was marvellous! The manager of Folkestone was a chap named Jack Pritchard, who had played here at Southend. When he knew that I would probably not be staying with Brentford after five years, he came down to Southend and knocked on my door unannounced and said I want to sign you on for Folkestone. Well I was quite flattered because I was 33 then, but I had two years there and I scored about fifty goals I think. It was what I called walking football, dead easy for anyone that had played League football. 

You returned to Southend as Youth team manager under Ted Fenton, did you enjoy that role? 

It was a lovely time for a few years, and he was one of the nicest men I ever met. I went to his funeral some years later up at Brentwood. He moved house down here a few hundred yards from where we were living, just on the estate here and he died some years ago I don’t know whether his wife is still alive, Renee. 

When you were youth team manager at Southend, did any of the players under your guidance make the grade? 

Yeah they did and funnily enough I was only thinking this morning. There weren’t a lot because it wasn’t easy to do but yes there was about four or five. They not only made the grade at football but made it at other clubs as well. One lad, Chris Barnard, he played for I think it was Portsmouth. But they didn’t play for long, it’s a difficult game football you might be a well known locally placed player and your transferred somewhere else from youth football in Southend to Portsmouth or wherever it might be, he played for two or three other clubs. Sometimes you find its too much for you, the pace of it is too much. Usually they’d finish up playing non-league football. 

Tell me about your career after football? 

Well it was very interesting, I was conducting a football coach’s course for Bank Holiday sessions down by the Albany laundry, there was a playing field there. I remember that somebody came upto me and said what are you doing nowadays, I remember now he gave me a lift on his Lambretta. This chap worked for Southend council at the Civic Centre and he had this Lambretta and he picked me up and he was one of my pupils and I was the chap running it you see. He said to what are you doing nowadays and I said not a lot although I have still got a month or two to run on my contract with Brentford, I haven’t got anything else going. So he said would you fancy working in local government, so I said yes I think I probably would, that sounds quite attractive. He said well why don’t you go down to the Civic Centre, actually it was while they were building that and they were spread out all over the town. The Borough offices was in Alexandra Street and the Parks Department were near The Kursaal and the Cemeteries department were in Victoria Avenue round about were Barclays Bank eventually became, over the road from the Civic Centre. He said why don’t you go down there because I know there is a job going, so I telephoned through and asked whether it was possible to come down and see the recruitment officer and he said yes. So I made an appointment to see him and he said I can only tell you this that a lot of people have applied for this job, and I can only put you down as one of the number. My heart sank. He did that and in those days even if you were on about £500 a year they used to have to go in front of the committee, today the managers can take on people wherever the vacancy is, but in those days forty years ago, they were almost telling you that you were very privileged to be applying for this job and when the time came to be interviewed I had to go in front of this committee and the chairman said something like “I understand you were a professional footballer”, so I said yes. He said we don’t really want footballers you know we want local government officers. So I said yes I do understand that, so he said I think we will have to leave it for a month, they still do meet once a month, so you had to wait a whole month, it seemed like a year. Eventually at the end of that time they wrote to me and said come in a see us, I don’t know whether it was an excuse or what, but the establishment officer said how do we know that this chap can read or write? But the councillor who recommended me said he can read and write, and on my application form it stated that I had been a navigator on Lancasters during the War. So they agreed I must be able to read and write. Anyway they took me on and I was there for twenty years and for the last eight or nine I was the Chief Officer so I hope I could read and write satisfactorily! 

As a player with a lengthy professional career, what did you think were your strongest qualities? 

I could run like the wind, I was an even timer over a hundred yards. I could jump many feet into the air and head and I remember one manager saying to me when you can’t run and you can’t jump, you’ll me no good to me! What he was saying in effect was that I wasn’t a great skilful player, but none the less I was effective and I could score goals and make goals for other people. 

Returning to your early career at Southend what were you earning as a newly signed professional player? 

I was looking at it yesterday, I have got all of my contracts here, I think it was seven pounds a week, and another pound or two pounds if I played in the first team. There was a flat rate of about seven pounds. Its crazy today when you think about that, when even at a club like Southend today, I don’t suppose anybody gets less than £500 a week. And the better players no doubt get a couple of thousand. 

What were the training sessions like in those days? 

Mainly just running around the track. Boring you know where as today they have scientific aids to get you fit. 

What was the funniest story you can recollect from your days at Southend? 

It was nearly sixty years ago, incredible isn’t it! We had a player then who came from Leigh named Cyril Thompson, he was a centre forward. He and I used to vie with each other, if one was playing well he would be centre forward and if they were playing poorly they would be on the wing or something like that. He and I were great friends, but at the same time we were having to vie with each other, sometimes one would be in the team and the other wouldn’t. He died at a young age by the way, very sad. I remember we the team was playing very poorly and we had an emergency meeting with the manager. How did he put it old Cyril, he was a very naïve chap, things had got a bit heated in the dressing room with the management and players. I remember Cyril saying something like “we’re not just playing here for our wages, we playing for dear life”. The poor chap had been a prisoner of War for five years and I think something had happened that upset him and he got it of his chest by saying that. He was a lovely fellow and I only looked up his biography the other day he died in his thirties. He played for Folkestone as well, we used to alternate there as well! 

Who was the toughest opponent you encountered during your career? 

Well there used to be a few, you came up against very prolific goalscorers. Then there were players then that had played before the War, they were still playing aged about 38 or something, and they knew they couldn’t compete with young players who could run like blazes, so they used to make sure you got crippled. I remember I broke my leg at Swindon, I had my back to the goal, and the ball bounced and I turned to kick it and this chap put his boot across my shin and broke my leg. This was on a Saturday and the next day they bought me all the way from Swindon to Southend at Rochford hospital. So I was off for quite some time, several weeks you know. What I am trying to say is that there were two or three players, who were notorious and the only way they could stop you really was by giving you a good wallop and hoped you couldn’t carry on, as you had no substitutes in those days. A chap of 38 just couldn’t compete with a lad of 21 at running you know. 

Who stands out at the greatest player you played either with or against in your career? 

Stanley Matthews. He came down here to Southend some years ago, and I will tell you something about him. He died when he was about 80 and he had a good career as you know. Wonderful player, we queued up down at Clifftown Road for about two or three hundred yards to get in to this place where he was signing autographs. When it came to my turn, we went in and I said to him do you remember the year 1953 when you were playing for Blackpool and won your Cup winners medal having tried twice before and finished as a runner up. He said I should never forget it we were drawn against Southampton in the Cup at Blackpool and we drew 1-1 I think it was, and then we had to replay on the Wednesday down at Southampton. I said to him well there you are and that’s me! And he looked at me and stepped backwards and said you missed an open goal. I said I have never been able to live it down since, when it was 0-0 I missed an open goal which I would have thought meant that we would have one 1-0 and Stan Matthews might never had got his medal. When I showed him this Blackpool programme, I said would you sign just under your name there and he did and we had a wonderful old chat. It was very interesting, in football as they used to say, you’re never finished, I still get now today having finished with top class football for about 55 years, I still get people write to me and ask for my autograph, which amazes me. They are so keen and enthusiastic still. 

You remain a fervent Southend United supporter? 

Well all I can say, incidentally they are very good to me, I have a permanent seat at Roots Hall which they allocate to me each year. 

In your years as a player and a supporter, which players stick in your mind as being excellent players? 

There were some, a great friend of mine was Jack French, we both moved onto higher status. Jimmy McAlinden was a very good player, he won a Cup winners medal before the War for Portsmouth. When you  think of it literally hundreds of players have come and gone. Many of them I knew personally, when you play against somebody and they are marking you closely, you get a kind of a bond with them almost. 

Were there any players you ever thought how on earth did you get a contract? 

Yes I suppose there was, I tell you what I have done, I often wonder what happened to that chap that played for Watford or that chap that played for Leeds. I then look him up in one of my books only to find that he played two games and then died or something like that! 

Who do you rate as the best manager you worked under? 

Its very difficult because the word best, you might be talking about the most successful or the most tolerant or nice guy sort of thing. I felt very easy with the five years I had at Brentford, with Bill Dodgin. His son played for Arsenal for many years by the way. But he was the manager there and I always got on very well him but he died some years ago. Unfortunately I remember other managers that perhaps only stayed for a year and then they were on their way you know. 

What is your view of today’s game? 

Well its far more skilful than it was in my day. A lot of that is due to the composition of the ball. You see when I played they were leather balls, if it was raining they doubled their weight. The laces that they did up the ball with were long and stuck out. And if you headed one of those you were in trouble. Now I haven’t told you this but I suffer from Alzheimer’s as do hundreds of other ex players, I sometimes cant remember my own name. I think things have improved because today the ball has a little tiny valve, its also made out of a composition material and you could head it all day long and it wont hurt you. But I probably scored a third of my goals with my head and there is a price to pay for that because many years later you realise you can’t remember things as you would like to. Jeff Astle was a highly publicised case of this. He was a great player, his wife wants some sort of a scheme that could be maintained for players that are ill through playing football. But the reply of the FA and the Football League is always the same, you have no proof. It is very difficult to prove that somebody like Jeff Astle who has given a lot to football, who dies quite young, is due to what happened thirty years earlier. I always maintain that if you take a young lad of 18 or 20 and said we would like you to play for Arsenal but you won’t get any wages you will have to have another job. But at that age you are football mad and simply you love football and to play as I have done in front of 65,000 people, only one in a thousand gets to do that you know.