This season marks the 50th anniversary of Cambridge United’s last season in the Southern League which concluded in being elected into the Football League. Week by week we will look back on events of that memorable season and also 30 years ago, a season which saw the U’s win the first ever play off final at Wembley.
1969/70 United’s next opponents in the FA Cup were minnows Potton United from just over the Bedfordshire border, who conceded home advantage thinking that a match at the Abbey would attract a bigger crowd. As it turned out 2,191 watched United steamroll into the next round by ten goals to nil. United players were on a £2 win bonus, but when they went in 5-0 up at half time manager Bill Leivers offered them another £2 if they got 10 goals and £1 for every goal after that. Despite adding 5 more goals in the first fifteen minutes of the second half they couldn’t add anymore and missed out on the £1 for every goal incentive.
Ian Crawford, United’s only addition to the squad the previous summer, had his contract cancelled by mutual consent when it was realised he needed a cartilage operation. He was not seen at the Abbey again, neither was trialist goalkeeper Peter Goy who moved on to Tonbridge.
Leivers continued to use a squad system, picking teams for individual matches and picked a 4-3-3 formation for the Southern League match at Worcester City. Butcher, Cassidy and Doyle playing in front of a wingless midfield of Gregson, Walker and Mel Slack. It was Gregson’s first match since the opening day of the season. Butcher and Cassidy were again the scorers in a 2-1 victory which Leivers described as a “good all round team performance”.
Gerry Baker was increasingly being left out of the first team in favour of Terry Eades and was sold to Cambridge City for a £1,000 fee. Baker, a former League player at Bradford Park Avenue (more of them later in the season!) had been the mainstay of the U’s defence since his arrival from King’s Lynn in 1965. Leivers immediately splashed out a club record £4,500 on two Reading players Colin Meldrum and George Harris. Scottish born Meldrum a centre back had been captain at Reading and Harris a left winger who had scored 34 goals in two seasons with the Biscuitmen.
ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL Everton opened up a 3 point gap at the top of the First Division with a 3-2 win at Wolves. Derby County were second and Liverpool third. Today’s opponents Macclesfield Town were on their way to winning Northern Premier League.
1989/90 The second leg of the League Cup 2nd round away to Derby County brought United back down to earth, Derby cruising to 5-0 win. All five derby goals coming from attacks down their left wing after they realised United’s right back Garry Clayton was carrying an injury.
The following Saturday the U’s slumped to their lowest league position to date with a 4-2 defeat at York City. John Taylor had given United the lead in the 34th minute but two goals before half time gave York the advantage which was increased in the 66th and 69th minutes. A Tony Dennis strike fifteen minutes from full time added some respectability. The U’s were now sitting in 23rd place in Division 4.
Things did begin to look up the following week with a rare Friday evening match at the Abbey, United beating Torquay United 5-2. Loan players Andy Polston (Spurs) and Michael Cheetham (Ipswich) are both in the team. Taylor with two, Philpott, Ryan and a Kimble penalty, who also missed one, make up the five goals.
ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL England earn their place in next summer’s World Cup Finals in Italy with a goalless draw away to Poland, thanks mainly to four outstanding saves by forty year old Peter Shilton. Today’s opponents Macclesfield Town were playing in what was then called the GM Conference, now the National League.
THE WORLD IN OCTOBER 1989 Ride on Time by Black Box were completing six weeks at No.1 in the UK singles chart. Jeremy Paxman was making his first appearance on BBC2’s Newsnight programme. ITV’s Coronation Street starts a third weekly episode.