Today it would almost be ridiculous to encounter a pitch that didn’t have a lush, flat surface, but Ed suffered unimaginably poor-quality pitches and described them as ‘awful’, before adding: ‘They weren’t pitches back then.’
His local club has played in five different locations in his lifetime, with the newly-formed Abbey United playing on Midsummer Common from the year of his birth until the First World War. In the club’s 20th year, following spells at Stourbridge Common, Parker’s Piece and the aptly named Celery Trenches, United move once more to Newmarket Road, and to the site of the current Abbey Stadium.
For most of this time, footballs were nothing like the light, swerving objects of today, but Ed shrugged off suggestions he had it tougher with the equipment of his era, saying: ‘They weren’t very hard – just leather and rubber.’ Asked about the big boots he used to wear, he replied, with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes: ‘No, mine weren’t big – I had small feet.’
Not only does Ed share the same birth year as his local club, he played a part in its history, as a 20-year-old, by playing in its first game at the current Newmarket Road ground. Playing left half, he was on the losing side as his Cambridge University Press team went down 2-0 in the 1932 friendly, but he remembers the facilities available at the time. ‘You’d always get a good cup of tea at the end (of a game) – there were eatables at half-time,’ he reminisced. ‘There were no pools or anything (to wash in) – just tin bathtubs.’
One summer, Ed had the pleasure of playing against cricket legend Sir Jack Hobbs, and agonises as he remembers dropping the England international on 99. The master proceeded to notch a century.
Whilst Ed’s football days have passed, the sport continues to progress and Cambridge United will be looking to reflect on their history to formulate a springboard for success over the next century.