Sadly, that proved not to be the case. United, who were working under severe financial constraints, won more games under Shellito than they had under Ryan, but his record of six wins and five draws from 35 League games is the second worst of any U's manager.
He resigned on 6 December 1985, saying he had become disillusioned with football. ‘I’ve been in soccer as a player and manager for 30 years, but now I’m turning my back on it,’ he added. ‘I have no plans at the moment, but it will be a different way of life. There is a big cloud over football. There is no bubble and bounce any more.’
Happily, his subsequent career in Malaysia restored Shellito’s enjoyment of the game. He coached at Kuala Lumpur, Perak and Sabah, served as Selangor's coaching director and also worked as a match analyst for the Asian Football Confederation.
He died on 31 October 2018 following hospital treatment for a lung infection and kidney complications. He leaves wife Jeany and two daughters.
An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge match day programme for the game against Macclesfield Town on 27 October 2018.
It won’t have escaped your notice that the UK is marking two 100th anniversaries of great historic significance this year: the end of World War I and the first acknowledgment of women’s right to vote.
Only some women, mind: following the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918, it would take another ten years for Parliament to decree that they should be able to vote on the same terms as men.
I’ll examine how women have always been crucial to the success of our club in a future programme. For now, with November 11 approaching, it’s an appropriate time to focus on the Great War and what it meant for Abbey United.
The easy answer is ‘not a lot’. As far as we know, the young club, formed in 1912, stopped playing at the end of the 1913/14 season and didn’t resume until September 1919 – ten months after the cessation of hostilities – with a 6-3 friendly spanking of Ditton Rovers.
If you think the Abbey were unlucky to have their fledgling career halted by the outbreak of war, though, spare a thought for Harrogate AFC who, newly founded and enrolled in the Northern League, were scheduled to play their first ever match in September 1914. The outbreak of war put the kibosh on that plan.
Deprived of their football, the young men of Abbey United turned their attentions to other matters. Did they sign up and march off to the front? If so, did they ever come home? Or did they do their bit for the war effort by keeping the wheels of industry, commerce and education turning?
We wish we knew. A recent Coconuts research project, carried out with Wolfson College and the University of Hertfordshire’s First World War Engagement Centre, and funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, aimed to find out. Sadly, it failed.
We came very, very close to identifying the Abbey United players who represented the club in 1913/14, but we weren’t close enough. Hampered by the absence of players’ first names in the records, we just couldn’t pin them down with sufficient certainty.
A lot of good has come out of the effort, though: we haven’t given up trying to track these blokes down and, as recently as this week, Coconuts skivvies started to follow a new line of research on a particular player. We may be on the verge of a breakthrough.
What’s more, you will shortly be able to buy and read the fruits of the original research: a lovingly created 40-page booklet called Barnwell at War.
Priced at £4.99 and published by Coconuts offshoot Lovely Bunch (which also brings you Andrew Bennett’s Celery & Coconuts history series and has other titles in the works), it illuminates the everyday lives of the working-class people of east Cambridge during the Great War.
This is a facet of Cambridge history that, unlike WWI as experienced by the officer class supplied to the battlefields by the University’s students and dons, has received scant attention.
Lovely Bunch has gone some way towards putting that injustice right with this fascinating little read. It will be available soon from the CFU online store or caravan and several purchase points in town.
He was granted a testimonial match and the last home pre-season friendly of 1986/87 saw a strong QPR side visit the Abbey. Scott managed to play the first 15 minutes as United won 3-0.
Following his retirement, he took a degree in business studies and worked in telecommunications. He later became secretary of the Stoke City Old Boys’ Association, and joined XPRO.
The organisation estimates that two in five former professionals will experience serious financial difficulties within five years of retirement, and that a third will have separated from their partner within a year.
As well as helping with financial, health and welfare problems, Scott also made many prison visits to ex-players who had found themselves in trouble with the law.
In the replay two days later, City grabbed an early goal but King Cass replied and then set up Roly Horrey before half-time. In a rare escape from a second-half Chelmsford onslaught, John ‘Scobie’ Saunders broke away to settle matters ten minutes from time.
Semi-final time: Leivers had just 13 players including two goalkeepers at his disposal when Ashford came to town, but they proved adequate to the task and Cassidy, John Gregson and Horrey notched in a 3-2 win.
United’s depleted team took the game to Cheltenham in the first leg of the final, played at the Abbey on Easter Saturday. The Robins’ penalty area was busier than Mitcham’s Corner, noted the CEN, but Gerry Baker’s strike on the hour was the only score.
Second leg man of the match, the heroic Rodney Slack, was knocked unconscious near the end but found himself submerged by joyous teammates at the final whistle of a 0-0 draw that ensured the trophy’s return to Newmarket Road. The cup was United’s for the third time in eight years.
We played many times at Cambridge City’s lovely old Milton Road home, in its two incarnations. Other away venues included the Railway Social Club Ground (location described as ‘at the back of the cattle market’), Pye’s wonderful sports ground in Chesterton, Jesus Green, Lammas Land, Porson Road (probably the Perse preparatory school's sports field) and college grounds including Fitzwilliam House, King’s & Selwyn, Queen’s, Christ’s, Pembroke, Sidney Sussex, St Catherine’s and Clare.
United have performed on the sacred turf of Fenner’s cricket ground and, equally surprisingly, have turned out twice at the University’s rugby union headquarters in Grange Road.
The first occasion they ventured on to oval-ball territory was in December 1942, when the wartime Abbey United stuffed a local civil service team 10-2.
The next came on 20 March 1954, when the U’s took on their supposedly bigger and better rivals from over the Cam in a Cambs Invitation Cup semi-final.
The new-look cup was supposed to have featured eight clubs that season but holders Wisbech decided they had better things to do. That left United, City, Camden, Ely, Histon, March and Pegasus – a club composed of Cambridge and Oxford students – to fight it out.
Centre forward Albert George – father of former Abbey beat bobby Trevor – notched a hat-trick as the U’s thrashed March 6-1 in the first round and set up the Grange Road showdown.
United were expected to beat the City gents, who had finished a disappointing seventh in the Athenian League, and goals from inside left Jack Thomas duly made it 2-0 in front of an all-ticket crowd of 5,000.
The final, against Histon at Milton Road, started badly and quickly got worse.
Player-manager Bill Whittaker had to have painkilling injections before and during the match (partly excusing a late penalty miss, perhaps) and Thomas, victim of a leg muscle strain early on, hobbled through the game as a passenger. It finished goalless.
Chaos then ensued: no one had a clue what was supposed to happen next. Should extra time be played or not? Eventually, Cambs FA secretary Bill Ling stepped forward to decree that the match should continue.
A crowd of 5,645 watched, grumbling, as U’s and Stutes slugged it out. At the end of 120 strength- and patience-sapping minutes, it was still 0-0 as far as anyone could make out – night had descended by that stage.
The season was at an end and there was nothing else for it: a replay would have to be staged the following season.
United finished the job nearly six months later with a 3-1 win at Milton Road, Thomas (two) and Peter Dobson doing the goalscoring honours.
On 27 January 1962, a kicking incident at Cheltenham saw him become the first United player to be sent off twice in one season, and three times in all.
But in between the dismissals there were sublime moments like the winner in a 3-2 East Anglian Cup victory over the Norwich second string in November 1961: after mesmerising his marker with sleight of foot, he hammered a ferocious drive into the top corner.
Having scored 27 U’s goals in 98 games – goodness knows what he would have achieved if he hadn’t incurred six weeks of suspensions – McCrory went home in the summer of 1962 and player-managed Crusaders for a while.
He and wife Rita later ran the Port O’Call bar in Donaghadee, welcoming a certain George Best to perform the opening ceremony in 1969. He died in 2011, leaving many a United supporter staring wistfully into his beer.
An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United match day programme for the game against Forest Green Rovers on 2 October 2018.
When you glug a Corona nowadays, you’re drinking a disappointingly thin lager brewed in Mexico. There may be a chunk of lemon or lime wedged in the neck of the bottle, presumably to make it taste of something.
But to those of us who grew up before the drinks industry went daft, Corona means something very different.
Corona was the pop that came in bottles delivered by the Corona man in his big yellow lorry: lemonade, limeade, cherryade and loads of other flavours including my favourite, dandelion and burdock.
There were Corona depots all over the country and one of them was in front of the Abbey, on the site now occupied by the car hire people. That’s why all right-thinking people call that end of the ground the Corona End.
And that’s also why the next volume of the late, great Andrew Bennett’s history of our club, Celery & Coconuts, is called Champagne & Corona.
If you want to know where the ‘Champagne’ bit comes from, you’ll just have to buy a copy of the book, and I can help you out with that.
The Coconuts mob are taking pre-orders for the book, which will be out in plenty of time for Christmas. To reserve your copy, head, with credit card handy, to the CFU online store at cambridgefansunited.org/store, or to CFU's Caravan of Love in the front car park on a match day .
I’ve been allowed a glimpse and, I tell you what, Champagne & Corona is up to Andrew’s usual brilliant standard. It tells the story of the 1970s: an amazing decade that saw the U’s embark on their Football League adventure and climb all the way up to what is today called the Championship – the old Second Division.
They were (mostly) fantastic days, when we could feast on the skills of blokes like Brendon Batson, Steve Spriggs, Tom Finney, Dave Stringer, Willy Watson, Steve Fallon, Alan Biley and Brian Greenhalgh.
Brian and his striking pal Dave Lill feature on the front cover of Champagne & Corona. Dave is watching Brian tussle with the Rochdale defence at Spotland, during a 2-0 win for the U’s. You can understand and forgive the Dale player's pained expression, although not his hairstyle.
As you can tell from the sparsely populated terrace visible in the background, Dave was one of very few people who witnessed that event.
The Third Division fixture, on 5 February 1974, attracted the grand total of 588 spectators – a record low League attendance for both clubs. Champagne & Corona reveals the main reason for the tiny crowd: the Three-Day Week.
History lesson for those who weren’t around: in early 1974, beset by industrial action, a global oil crisis, cripplingly high inflation and general discontent, the Tory government introduced measures to conserve electricity consumption. One of these was the Three-Day Week, which limited businesses’ use of electricity to three consecutive days in every seven.
Rochdale weren’t allowed to use their floodlights, and United travelled to Lancashire on a Tuesday morning in order to play in the afternoon.
So it was that fewer than 600 people were able to turn up and watch. ‘The atmosphere was absolutely shocking,’ observed United manager Bill Leivers.
Andrew’s typically entertaining account of United’s place in the history of industrial relations is just one of many delights to be found within the covers of Champagne & Corona. Please order your copy now so that Coconuts can afford to pay the printer's bill.
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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.