An edited version of this article was originally published in the Cambridge United matchday programme on 18 April 2015.
On the right is the United Youth team of 1959/60. Click on the image to enlarge and you'll be able to pick out Peter Bowstead – he’s the one kneeling on the right. Peter is an old friend of Coconuts and a member of Cambridge United Former Players’ Association, and he can name every player in the photograph.
At the back, from the left, are Alan ‘Tosh’ Carter, Conrad Lodziak (also known as Conrad Houghton), Brian Page, Vic Phillips, Gerald Butler, Roger Smith, Tim Langran, Derek Potter, David Harrison and John Hiner. At the front are Charlie Irvine, Dave Wisbey, Brian Tailby, Tony Willson, youth team secretary John Munns, assistant secretary Gerry Farrington, Graham Ward, Richard Wilson and our friend Peter. We’re indebted to the Cambridge News for the photograph.
This was an amazingly successful team. They won 62 and drew four of the 70 games they played that season and won the Chiltern League, the Chiltern Challenge Cup and the Cambs & District League.
Some of them, like wing half Peter, became professionals. He made 11 U’s first team appearances before signing for Oxford United for a ‘substantial’ fee in 1962, at the age of 18. He played eight League games and scored twice for Oxford, but injuries blighted his career – he suffered no fewer than four leg breaks. Nevertheless, he played for the likes of King’s Lynn and Chelmsford City before retiring to work as a bricklayer. He still lives in the Cambridge area, like Tony Willson, Vic Phillips and maybe one or two others.
Inside forward Graham Ward played 35 times for United and nearly joined Watford. He moved instead to Wisbech Town and later played for Bury Town, Haverhill Rovers and Soham Town Rangers. Are you out there, Graham? We would love to hear from you.
One of the group was less successful at football (being, in his own judgment, ‘crap’) but followed a fascinating career path.
Inside forward Con Lodziak lied about his age and appeared for the U’s under his mother’s maiden name because he didn’t want his school to know he was playing football. At one time you could get detention at the County (more formally known as Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, which morphed into Hills Road Sixth Form College in the 1970s) if you were found meddling in the round-ball game. You should hear Con’s story of what he and his mate Silvio did to schoolmate Roger Waters. Whatever happened to him?
The son of a Polish soldier who married an Isleham woman, Con carried on playing football, for Purbeck Rovers among others, taught at St Bede’s and published the influential Understanding Soccer Tactics in 1966. He upped sticks for the United States to pursue an MA and PhD in social psychology, before being asked politely to leave by the FBI: the Bureau took a dim view of links Con had forged, while trying to help obtain grants for students, with the Black Panthers, the revolutionary African-American party that played an important part in the civil rights movement of the 60s.
Back in Blighty, Con taught at Trent Polytechnic while continuing to enjoy his football. He carried on publishing too, embracing such philosophical topics as The Myth of Consumerism and The Power of Television. Nowadays he lives in south-west France while family members like brother Mark (inexplicably a Spurs fan) and nephews Martin and Stephen (U’s men both) hold the Lodziak fort here.
There are eight million stories on the naked terrace. This has been one of them. Tell us your story – email email@example.com.
Some of the inaugural members of the Cambridge United Former Players' Association at the launch event in the Supporters' Club on Monday, July 4. From left: Tom Finney, Graham Daniels, Vic Phillips, Rodney Slack, Peter Bowstead, Peter Hobbs, Tom Youngs, Dan Gleeson, Steve Fallon, Peter Phillips, Jim White.
The first three inductees of the newly inaugurated Cambridge United Hall of Fame were honoured tonight by 100 Years of Coconuts.
At an award ceremony in the Supporters’ Club, presided over by United chairman Dave Doggett and fans’ elected director Dave Matthew-Jones, Russell Crane, Lil Harrison and Rodney Slack were inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The ceremony was watched by members of the Cambridge United Former Players’ Association, also launched tonight by Coconuts.
The Former Players’ Association has been set up with the aim of bringing the extended U’s family closer together, while the Hall of Fame recognises outstanding contributions to the development and history of the football club. Like Coconuts’ recently opened mini-museum, The Story of the U’s, the two initiatives have been made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Hall of Fame inductees were chosen by Coconuts and CFU trust board members. In future, Coconuts will look to involve the entire U’s supporter base in the voting process.
At first the Hall of Fame will take the form of a website, but Coconuts and Cambridge United are looking at the possibility of a physical display within the Abbey Stadium.
‘We were very clear when we set out to launch the Hall of Fame that we didn’t just want to honour players,’ said Coconuts chair Pat Morgan.
‘Fans are just as important to any football club as players, directors, financial supporters and staff, and the first three inductees are a good indication of that.
‘Russell Crane was just as much a U’s supporter as he was a player. Lil Harrison was involved with the club before the first world war and was still going to games in the 1990s. Rodney Slack has the U’s in his blood despite being born near the other place [Peterborough].
‘As Russell told us, the club is a family affair, and you couldn’t find three more committed family members than these first inductees.’
Russell Crane (1926-2016) grew up in a U’s-mad household in Ditton Walk, opposite the United ground. He broke many club records during an 18-year career with Abbey and Cambridge United, and was still attending games as a guest of Coconuts as recently as last year.
Rodney Slack was born in 1940. Voted player of the year three times in his first five years as a U’s player, he was idolised by the fans and continues to live within a stone’s throw of the Abbey. He is a 100 Years of Coconuts committee member and chairman of the Former Players’ Association.
Lil Harrison (1904-1996) first saw Abbey United play at the age of ten. She went on to become a stalwart of the Supporters’ Club committee, raised countless thousands of pounds as the club rose through the leagues and came to exemplify the family spirit of the club.
The inaugural membership of the Cambridge United Former Players’ Association is around 100 – a number that is expected to grow fast in the coming months.
They range from ‘Tickle’ Sanderson, who first played for Abbey United in 1939, to more recent players like Liam Hughes and Coconuts patron Luke Chadwick.
CUFPA, chaired by Rodney Slack, is setting up a website and will keep members in touch with a quarterly newsletter. Occasional small-scale social events will be arranged and members are encouraged to contact each other via a password-protected members’ area on the website.
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