Words are not adequate to convey the size of our beloved club historian’s archive of writings, stats, reports, photographs … you name it, Andrew saved it.
It will take many a year to explore, sort, catalogue and communicate the contents of the entire hoard of treasure. The best we can do at the moment is to nibble away at the edges of the digital pile.
As we do so, we regularly unearth priceless examples of Bennettiana, and we’re happy to bring one to your attention today.
Around 2010, Andrew described his favourite U’s players from the 40-odd years that he’d been making his regular pilgrimages to the Abbey. He wrote:
My name is Andrew Bennett, I am 51 years of age and for the last 35 of those years I have been a resident of the village of Histon. I first nagged my Dad into taking me to the Abbey Stadium on 13 April 1970, for a 3-0 win over Gloucester City. It is well-nigh impossible to pick out just five players who have sported the black and amber over the last 40-plus years, but here goes …
Brian Greenhalgh. Peter Leggett was my very first U’s hero, due to his resemblance to my all-time footballing idol, George Best. But Greenhalgh stood out as something special: a graceful, flaxen-haired goal machine whose United career climaxed in the unforgettable 3-2 win over Mansfield on the last day of the 1972/73 season that clinched promotion to Division Three.
I can still hear the chants of ‘Greeeeen-halgh! Greeeeen-halgh!’ echoing around the old place as the crowd celebrated on the pitch with the players, then chairing them off. For a 13-year-old, four-eyed geek, life did not get any better than this. I never got to touch the hem of the great man’s garment, though.
Steve Fallon. It is my theory that as far as favourite players go, we eventually gravitate towards one with whom we identify most readily. Once I realised that I would never be another Best, or even another Leggett, I grew to admire a man with different qualities: consistency, stoicism, reliability, strength, loyalty, courage.
Just occasionally, very occasionally, Fallon would produce something quite extraordinary, a 25-yard wonder goal such as he scored against Grimsby on a sunny afternoon in May 1981.
He was there throughout the great days of the late 1970s/early 1980s, and he was one of the few who stayed when it all turned sour later on; if injury had not curtailed his career, he’d probably still be playing for us now.
Steve Claridge. You only have to look at certain players for their personality to all but jump off the pitch and rugby-tackle you to the ground. Claridge was a rebel: scruffy, insolent, a shambling maverick with rolled-down socks in a marvellous team that John Beck did his best to turn into dead-eyed robots, but did not quite succeed.
But what I liked most about him was his absolute joy when he scored a goal – an infectious, unbridled expression of the sheer fun of football at its best that he shared with us, lighting up the whole stadium.
He even came back after leaving us once, before going on to the even greater fame and fortune he deserved. Then he shared it all with us in a cracking autobiography.
Dave Kitson. As a ‘ginger’ myself, I always tried to look on myself as one of the chosen few, someone special who stood out from the crowd despite all evidence to the contrary. Then came Kits, the coolest man in town, an intelligent, articulate, supremely gifted footballer who managed to be simultaneously United’s best striker, midfielder, defender and passer of the ball whenever he played, and came across as even more Fonz-like off the pitch.
The most talented player I have ever seen in a United shirt, he was sold from under our noses by an incompetent board and he should have played for England. I still harbour a faint hope that he will.
Robbie Simpson. My most self-indulgent pick, I suppose. I have never wanted to talk to or get to know United players, for fear that they would turn out to be the self-obsessed, dim-witted, objectionable ninnies that so many higher level players really are. But when I presented Robbie with his player of the season trophy in 2007, he not only knew who I was but told me he loved my match reports and always got his dad to print them off for him.
He had had a great season, saving us almost single-handedly from relegation to the Conference South with goals of grace, skill and power, including a dramatic late
Honourable mentions: Dion Dublin, David Crown, Ian Measham, Wayne Hatswell, Martin Butler, Lionel Perez, Tom Finney, Alan Biley, Willie Watson.