An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the game against Accrington Stanley on 11 November 2017.
Which football club plays in amber and black, was formed in 1912 and re-formed in 1919, and experienced a life-changing upheaval in 1989? Apart from Cambridge United, that is?
The answer is Newport County, or at least the Newport County that was formed after the late-80s winding-up of the famous old club that started out in the early years of the 20th century as the Newport & Monmouth County Association Football Club.
Our 1989 experience was a little less traumatic than that of the Exiles: late in the year, inspirational manager Chris Turner was mulling over a change that would eventually see John Beck take over his chair and lead the U’s on a rampage that would see them knocking on the Premier League’s door and reaching two FA Cup quarter-finals.
And talking of the Cup, we’re off to Rodney Parade in early December to do round two battle with Newport, for only the second time in our history. (Sad to relate, the U's subsequently opted out of this season's Cup by losing 2-0 to County.)
Many columns in coming weeks will no doubt be devoted to the first of those occasions. I remember it very well. On 21 November 1953, Newport came to Newmarket Road for an FA Cup first round tie, the result of United’s vanquishing of St Neots & District, Cambridge City, Wisbech Town and Stowmarket Town in the qualifiers. Twelve goals had been scored, and only one conceded, along the way.
If you want all the detail, head for Andrew Bennett’s Risen from the Dust, the second part of his Celery & Coconuts history of our club. It’s available, with a discount for CFU members, from the caravan on matchdays or online at cambridgefansunited.org/store/c4/Books.html.
But to cut a long story short, County and Bill Whittaker’s U’s (wearing a cerise and blue strip, borrowed from the City Police team to avoid a colour clash) fought out a 2-2 draw. In the replay, just five days later, United came away from South Wales with a 2-1 win, Len Saward and Les Stevens the goal heroes.
Into the second-round hat we went, and out came Bradford Park Avenue, to whom United succumbed 2-1 at home in front of 10,000 tightly packed spectators.
We had witnessed the club’s best FA Cup run up to that point, and celebrations were in order. Risen from the Dust reveals that glasses were clinked early in March, when the ladies’ committee of the Supporters’ Club, chaired by Lil Harrison, put on a celebration dinner in the clubroom.
The scene is pictured above, and we’re indebted to Sara Milburn, Lil's granddaughter, for the photograph.
Guests of honour, as a gesture of thanks for the loan of their shirts, were the City police team, and representatives of City, Histon and the Cambridgeshire FA were also there.
There were speeches. United vice-chairman Geoff Proctor recalled that it was nearly six years since he had been ‘kidded’ into attending the Supporters’ Club’s first annual meeting. ‘The meeting lasted 20 minutes and I came out as chairman,’ he added.
‘After a few meetings, it was obvious I’d met a band of people – the best I’ve ever met – who were fine organisers. The best only seemed good enough and although there was only £100 in hand, plans were laid for erecting this building – by voluntary effort. The founding of a limited company was the outcome.’ From little acorns …