This article appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the match against Mansfield Town on Saturday, 21 January 2017.
The Coconuts chaps were talking the other day. They do a lot of that, and there’s usually tea and chocolate digestives involved; even doughnuts sometimes. This time, for a change, they were yakking about something important: Andrew Bennett’s brilliant book about the early history of our club, Newmarket Road Roughs.
It’s been selling really well, and if you haven’t got your copy yet, get along to the CFU caravan or online store before they’re all gone – just £14.99 to you.
Andrew spent thousands of hours researching at the Cambridgeshire Collection, but he was far from the first U’s fan to make use of that excellent resource. Long before 100 Years of Coconuts was a twinkle in Dave Matthew-Jones’s eye, the history of Cambridge United was being studied by Paul Daw, and the result was his trio of books: United in Endeavour (covering the period 1912 to 1988), On the Up (1988 to 1991) and First Team Match Statistics (1913 to 1991).
While his time at Newmarket Road wasn’t as chock-full of achievement, it wasn’t without its challenges. He was unlucky enough to join the U’s during the mid-1980s, when the tenures of John Ryan and Ken Shellito were threatening to undo all the good work of the previous 70 years.
Back in England, he resumed his sporting career with Bury Town, from whom he joined United, with Bob, for the club’s first ECL season. The older brother earned £4 a week while Jack made do with a pound less.
He went on to establish himself as first-choice left winger for most of the season, with Joe Gallego playing inside him at inside left, and demonstrated his commitment during a 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur ‘A’ in October. He insisted on continuing after receiving treatment for a head injury in the first half, but after the match an ambulance was called as concussion was suspected. Jack refused it and left the ground the way he had arrived: wheeling his bicycle.
United finished fourth in their first ECL season, but then Gallego was switched to the left wing and Jack’s first-team outings were scarce until he rejoined Bury Town in March 1953. He later played for March Town United and continued to show his talents as a cricketer.
Jack was married to Audrey, who survives him, They lived in Bury St Edmunds, where Jack worked as an engineer. He died on January 18.
Graham came into his own as a goalscoring inside forward during 1964/65, embarking on a fine scoring run that included two hat-tricks and attracting the attention of Oxford manager Turner, who stated his intention of recalling the player under a new contract. ‘I am very happy here,’ said Atkinson, ‘and feel that I am playing better since I joined Cambridge United. Naturally, I must listen to Arthur Turner’s offer before deciding, but it will have to be an attractive one to make me leave Cambridge.’
The lure of the Football League and the prospect of being reunited with his brother proved decisive. Graham’s last Cambridge game was a 3-1 win at Bedford Town on December 5. United’s season then took a dip that was partly attributed to the absence of Atkinson, who finished the season as top league scorer with 13 goals.
He returned to Cambridge United colours for John Gregson’s testimonial in January 1972, and the U’s provided the opposition for his testimonial at Kettering Town in April 1976, by which time his brother was managing the hosts. He had joined the Poppies in 1974.
Graham and wife Jenni lived in Oxfordshire for most of their lives but moved to Pembrokeshire in 2004.
Happy Harry's blog
I'm the living embodiment of the spirit of the U's, and I'll be blogging whenever I've got news for you, as long as I don't miss my tea.