In the old days, if you left a Newmarket Road pub only to realise you’d still got a bit of a thirst on, you didn’t have to go far to put the matter right. Around the time Abbey United was formed, early in the last century, there was a boozer every 36 yards on an average stretch of the fabled thoroughfare.
Nowadays you’ll need stout walking boots if you want to visit the only three pubs that remain: the Wrestlers, the Corner House and the Burleigh Arms. But renovations at the old Seven Stars promise to bring a lost hostelry back to life – and reawaken memories of the shop that once nestled alongside the pub.
The fishing tackle emporium of the larger than life Percy Anderson met the needs of generations of Cambridge anglers, and it was for that pursuit that Percy was best known. Crowned UK national champion in 1974 and Europe’s top angler three years later, he rejoiced in passing on his skills and knowledge, running his legendary summer teach-ins for local kids for 40 years until shortly before his death, aged 75, in 2006.
Everyone who knew Percy has a story to tell; ask the likes of Ian Darler or Rodney Slack if you need to flex your chuckle muscle. Ian’s tale of the exposed rump is a belter, as is Rodney’s colourful recounting of the mannequin incident, and there’s plenty more where they came from.
But Percy’s competitive exploits were not confined to the riverbank: he competed at county level at indoor and outdoor bowls, snooker, pool and table tennis, and he was a very useful centre forward who flirted with football’s big time.
After rising through the Abbey ranks, he made his United Counties League debut in a 2-2 home draw with Corby Town in September 1950. The goals didn’t flow too freely – he scored three in 11 first team games – but First Division West Brom were interested and in May 1951, after netting four times in three trial matches, the 20-year-old Percy signed a professional contract. As you’ll see when you visit The Story of the U’s in the Supporters’ Club, the Throstles promised to reward United if ‘the boy Anderson’ made the grade.
Sad to say, he didn’t. After missing out on the Albion’s first team for two seasons, he moved on to Stockport County of Division Three North, for whom he played his only Football League game during the 1953/54 season. Perhaps pining for the Cam, he returned to the Abbey in May 1954 and enjoyed a run in the side in the first half
Percy Armstrong (second right) listens to player-manager Bill Whittaker's dressing room talk before Cambridge United's FA Cup first round proper match at Torquay United on 20 November 1954. Others, back from left: Teddy Bowd, Peter Dobson, Harry Bullen; lower from left: Bob Bishop, Len Crowe, Russell Crane, Arthur Morgan, Jack Thomas. Torquay won 4-0.
The Seven Stars, Newmarket Road, probably 1920s. Occasion unknown.
of the following season. The goals again proved hard to come by, however, and after a 1-0 defeat at Clacton in January 1955 he was loaned out to Great Yarmouth Town of the Eastern Counties League, his U’s career at an end. The United career stats: seven goals in 29 games.
Percy made many a keepnet bulge in angling matches, but the Newmarket Road goal nets were often empty. When he did score he made sure everyone knew about it, and in later life he was fond of recreating his successes on the Abbey pitch. If you get a chance, ask Ian. Bet you can’t keep a straight face.
This article appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the game against Notts County on 2 January 2017.