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Monday, 5 November 2012

Goals galore - and a great football memory proven correct

This is probably of interest to football fans and nobody else. I make no apologies.

Last week there were a couple of games in the English League Cup that yielded an extraordinary crop of goals. Norwich 5 Arsenal 7, Chelsea 5 Man U 4 (yesss!).

I can’t remember a previous 7-5 scoreline, and I’ve been following football for over fifty years. 8-4, yes, 8-3, yes, and 7-3, for sure, but never a 7-5.

But of course, reading about those games started me thinking. The first game I ever attended, a pre-season friendly between my local amateur side, Redhill of the Athenian League, and Crystal Palace, then of the Third Division, ended 7-3 (to Palace).

In 1966 I was at Stamford Bridge to see a 5-5 draw between Chelsea and West Ham (yes, that team: Moore, Hurst and Peters, the three World Cup winners). And in 1971 I was at the Bridge once more to see Chelsea take on the Luxemburg Cup-Winners in a European tie. Jeunesse Hautcharage were then playing in their country’s third tier. They fielded a one-armed inside forward - this is the God’s honest truth - and a left-back who wore spectacles. Or was it the other way around? I concede that it may have been. Either way, Chelsea won 13-0 - and the late Peter Osgood bagged eight.

That’s the great thing about being a regular attender of football games, as I was back then. You’ll suffer some appallingly dreary games, you’ll feel the pain of humiliating defeat, and you’ll get very, very cold. But… if something extraordinary happens, you’ll witness it.

I was musing over this after watching highlights of Chelsea’s nine-goal thriller versus Man U the other day. I remembered that way back in the mid-60s I saw three consecutive games that ended 4-3. Now, I didn’t get to a game every week back then. I was incarcerated in a boarding-school, and had to be very artful - about slipping out of the school grounds unseen, about getting to London and back without paying my fare, about dashing back to school before the bell rang for supper, at 6.30 - and about lying as to my attendance at the school rugby match. I was very, very good at all four.

Still… when were those games, and did I possibly imagine some of them?

Good old Google. A little digging around revealed the following: that the first 4-3 game I saw, Charlton vs Manchester City at The Valley, took place on Saturday 15th February 1964. The second, West Ham v Sheffield Wednesday (now that was some dash, from the East End back to the Surrey hills via London Bridge), took place the following week, on the 22nd. And the third, Redhill vs APV Athletic in the East Surrey Charities Cup? Well, look at the programme, which I’ve just bought on eBay for £1.50:


See the date? 29th Feb. So, 4-3 in three consecutive games on three consecutive Saturdays. It has to be a record. And imagine my satisfaction - I mean now, having my memories proved correct.

I was also delighted to spot that in the Redhill team that day was a blond hero of my youth, one Ray Hutchins:


Ray was seventeen years old, a superbly gifted player, and was selected for the England Youth team twice that season. I’ve always - always - wondered what became of him. Did he turn pro? He must have done: he was a fabulous young inside forward. I’ll never forget a chipped goal he scored from inside the box against Hornchurh (or possibly Grays Athletic): stood there with one foot on the ball, looked up, and dinked it over the goalie from fifteen yards…. And if he was signed, who was it? The answer came from an obscure website I uncovered after a lot of digging. His selection for the England Youth XI (in a squad containing such names as Harry Redknapp, John Hollins, Peter Springett, Howard Kendall) prompted a great deal of interest from the bigger clubs, but Ray preferred to follow his career as… an accountant. And he died young, in 1999.  

Well, I’ve satisfied my curiosity. And I am saddened. There are some things you’d prefer not to have known.