Who remembers the Football League Review? You're showing your age if you admit it.
The magazine was produced by the Football League from the 1966/67 season to succeed Soccer Review, which had been published by a Leicester company called Sport & Screen, run by a certain Harry Brown, since August 1965. It was a mouthpiece for the Football League – some features were even tagged with the words 'This is an official League article' – and was inserted into many a League club's matchday programme. As you may have heard, Cambridge United joined that exclusive club in 1970.
In those days, a new club joining the League was far from the regular occurrence it is today. Ambitious non-League outfits had to apply to join and then, along with the bottom four clubs in Division Four, who were obliged to apply for re-election, wait for the League big boys to vote at the summer AGM. The oft-quoted 'old pals' act' usually saw to it that the status quo prevailed and the Div 4 failures lived to fight another day – the last club to be voted out before United replaced Bradford Park Avenue was Gateshead in 1960.
So there was a lot of interest in the new boys when the U's took to the League stage on Saturday, 15 August 1970, and the Football League Review sought to satisfy its readers' curiosity about the johnny-come-lately. The illustrations on this page are of two articles, the first published in the 1970/71 season and the second the following year. Love the accurate depiction of the open part of the Habbin on an inclement Barnwell day.
The first feature, published a few months into United's first League season, focuses on the club's early experience of the big time and warns: don't expect too much too soon. 'Some people seem to be under the impression we are still in the Southern League,' observes chairman Jack Woolley of the fans' seeming reluctance to embrace League football. 'There are even those who can't grasp we are no longer an Eastern Counties League club.'
In the second article, the League insists that it will not
always be swayed by the slick kind of PR campaign that helped to get United elected (alongside successive Southern League titles), although there aren't many who witnessed that campaign who would deny its ambition or effectiveness.
The third article, dating from around the halfway mark of the 1971/72 season, portrays a Cambridge United in confident mood and manager Bill Leivers sleeping more easily at night in his Elfleda Road home.
All this provides a fascinating insight into a vanished world: a world in which non-League clubs could dominate their competitions for years without gaining their due reward, and when the fourth division was still the Fourth Division. Click on the pictures to enlarge.
This article appeared in the Cambridge United programme for the game against Stevenage on 26 September 2015.
Favourite moment in United history? A certain early summer day at Wembley in 2014, perhaps. A cheeky flick, lob or chip from Dave Kitson? The moment in 1991 when the U’s strode out at Highbury to face the mighty Gunners, roared on by (literally) countless thousands? That unforgettable 5-1 at London Road in 1989? Or perhaps your memory goes back to the day in 1970 when United’s election to the Football League was announced, or further back to the days of Wilf Mannion, the Gallego brothers or even Abbey United’s Wally Wilson and Harvey Cornwell.
The story of the U’s covers a long, long time – 103 years, perhaps even longer – and involves innumerable people, places and events. It’s Coconuts’ aim to cover that entire era and recognise the huge part played by the Cambridge United family in making this the greatest little club in the world.
The first chance to do that in the flesh, as it were, comes next month when a 100 Years of Coconuts display opens at the Museum of Cambridge – the fascinating and inspiring place that used to be known as the Folk Museum. It’s on from October 9 until November 27, and you’ll find the museum at the corner of Castle Hill and Northampton Street.
This will be the first pop-up display in a series enabled by our grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and will be followed by a more permanent mini-museum in the Supporters’ Club. We’re talking to other museums that are keen to welcome similar displays. We’re also talking to the Abbey Stadium landlords, Grosvenor, but that’s a story for another time.
The Museum of Cambridge’s Community Cabinet, on the first floor of the ancient building that was once the White Horse Inn, enables many groups to put on this kind of exhibition. The Coconuts display will take visitors (that includes you) on a journey from 1912 to the present day using photographs, rare documents, memorabilia, other precious artefacts, a pair of ladies’ pants and a little imagination. The Coconuts mannequins, whom we’ve named Julian and Sandy in an act of homage to Round the Horne, will model contrasting football fashions from different eras.
While we’re making every effort to make this little exhibition as good as it can be, we’ll also be using it to learn museum-making lessons that will benefit us in formulating future displays. That’s where you come in. Feedback forms will be available at the museum, and we’d also welcome your thoughts in writing on what you’ve seen: please email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form at 100yearsofcoconuts.co.uk/contact-us.html.
While we contemplate the prospect of huge swarms of U’s fans and football historians queuing all the way down to Magdalene Bridge, we’re also wondering where to put all the stuff we’re accumulating when it’s not on display. We’ve been particularly overwhelmed by donations of programmes. While the Coconuts programme collection is in its infancy, it’s fair to say we’ve more than enough from recent years. But please, if you’re thinking of donating or loaning programmes from between the 1940s and the 1980s, go right ahead. You can contact us via the means above, or perhaps leave small donations at the CFU caravan on match days.
See you at the museum.
right winger with the ability to excite any crowd, he was also the first apprentice professional in English non-League football.
Cambridge-born, he was just 15 when he made his first-team debut for the U’s in a Mithras Cup tie at Dagenham in December 1964. (Yes, the Mithras Cup was a thing; St Albans City won it that season.) At the following year’s Football League AGM, United proposed that non-League clubs should be allowed to take on one apprentice for every five full-time pros on their books. Not wishing to be labelled stick-in-the-muds – perish the thought – the League passed the motion and young Felton duly became non-League’s first apprentice.
He made his Southern League debut in November 1965 and was carving out a highly promising career when Northampton Town came calling. Graham signed for the Cobblers in 1966 and went on to make more than 250 League appearances for them, having played for England Youth with such luminaries as Trevor Brooking, Brian Kidd and Joe Royle along the way.
What has all this to do with Cambridge United v Manchester United? I told you the link was tenuous: on 7 February 1970, it was Northampton who took on the Red Devils in the FA Cup, and that tie has gone down in history. In the Cobblers’ side that day was the same Graham Felton who had blazed the apprenticeship trail at the Abbey Stadium. He recalled later: ‘I lined up opposite my hero, George Best. I looked around and saw Bobby Charlton, Pat Crerand and Alex Stepney. I was in awe of the whole situation.’
Like his teammates, Graham must have been sick of the sight of Manchester United, and Best in particular, by the time the ref blew the final whistle. The Reds made light of the County Ground’s acres of mud to wind up 8-2 winners, with the great Irishman notching a club record-equalling six goals.
Graham went on to play for Barnsley and Kettering Town before retiring to take up painting and decorating. He still lives in Northampton and it is 100 Years of Coconuts’ aim to visit him one day and record his memories of Cambridge United.
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.