Substitution crept gradually into the game, but it wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the first subs in the English professional game stripped off. Before then, if a player couldn’t continue, you were either down to ten men or you soldiered on with ten and a quarter.
So it was essential to United manager Alan Moore that the eleven men he chose to play at Hereford in November 1962 were fighting fit. This fact seems to have been lost on wing half Mike Bottoms, who had been signed from QPR not long before.
We haven’t got a photograph of Bottoms, so the picture on this page depicts a recent Coconuts committee meeting discussing possible inductions to the Cambridge United Hall of Fame.
An old injury had recurred the previous week but Bottoms told anyone who would listen that he was raring to go, 110 per cent on top of his game, couldn’t wait.
The Hereford game was only a couple of minutes old when, as you have doubtless guessed, he broke down and thereafter had as much effect on the game as would Long John Silver without his crutch. His fellow U’s fought bravely but came away 2-1 losers.
Moore, not a big man but one capable of instilling fear in a fighting-drunk honey badger, was amused neither by Bottoms’ name nor by his deception.
‘I would have suspended him for a month but for the fact he has a nice family and I can’t see them go without any wages,’ he raged. ‘As it is, I have told him that he will never kick another ball for my first team.’
It transpired that U’s trainer Roy Kirk had passed on players’ fears that Bottoms might not last the 90 minutes, so Moore had called him in.
'I prodded all round the injury and there was not a peep out of the player,’ fumed the manager, ‘but within three minutes of the kick-off this old injury recurred and the team was let down.’
Bottoms’ United career was over after just 11 appearances – some of them quite short – and his contract was cancelled soon after.
CUFPA members line up in the Abbey Stadium centre circle, 22 September 2018. From left: Omer Riza, Derrick Christie, Tom Youngs, Soner Zumrutel, Ray Freeman, Roly Horrey, Peter Phillips, Peter Bowstead, Graham Felton, Terry Eades, John Hiner, Brian Grant (with Roly Horrey's grandson, Louis Brown), Willy Watson, Derek Haylock, Steve Fallon, Wes Maughan, Gerry Baker, Rodney Slack, Brian Greenhalgh, Tony Willson, Tom Higgins, Paul Wanless, Sam Harris, Andy Duncan, Colin Bate. All photos: Ben Phillips & Principal Studios.
Initial orders are being taken through the CFU online store and at the CFU caravan on a match day. Email 100 Years of Coconuts if you have any questions.
Champagne & Corona: The Story of Cambridge United Football Club 1970-1980
Paperback; 360 pages
£18.99 if collected from the CFU outlet; £17.99 for CFU members
£21.98 for postal deliveries; £20.98 for CFU members
As they pass the cemetery he’s streets ahead of Ellis, who looks beaten. Warren … Warren … Warren all the way. He flies through the finishing line at Abbey Street … and look at his time: he’s smashed the course record by two minutes!
The Boxing Day costers’ barrow ‘marathon’ of 1913 was dominated by Ben Warren from gun to tape, and his one hour, 26 minutes was indeed a record for the annual event.
It was a remarkable performance in heavy going – Newmarket Road was not the free-flowing highway we know today – and he picked up £2 5s 0d for his efforts.
Along the 12-mile route the 14 competitors pushed their costermongers’ barrows past builder William Sindall’s joinery works. If the race had been run in 1932, the contenders might have encountered Abbey United supporters on their way to prepare their pitch behind the works for the following day’s friendly against Bottisham.
The 1913 race attracted a large crowd – it was by then established as one of Cambridge’s festive season highlights, having started around 1890 – and volunteer collectors gathered a goodly sum for Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
Another volunteer, the Newmarket Road shoemaker Thomas Thickpenny Cash, acted as timekeeper. His father Isaac Thickpenny Cash was active in the organisation of the race, and several other Cashes were involved.
Coconuts is very interested in the Cash families of early 20th century Barnwell. In fact, a small group of researchers has been delving into the archives in search of two family members who played for Abbey United in 1913, and may have been among the crowd cheering the barrow racers on.
The work was part of a research project run in partnership with Wolfson College and funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council. The aim was to throw some light on the everyday lives of working-class east Cambridge during World War I, and knowing what happened to the lads who played for the pre-Great War Abbey was part of that.
We know that two young men called Cash, one with the initial H, turned out for the club in a 3-2 defeat to Watts & Sons on Midsummer Common on 29 November 1913. It seems likely that 16-year-old Harry Cash was the ‘H’ in question; in 1911 he was living at 147 Newmarket Road with aunt and uncle Catherine and William Bruce.
Young Harry was killed in France in 1917, while fighting with the Cambridgeshire Regiment, but his older brother William, who was also living with the Bruces in 1911, survived the war.
Were these Cash brothers Abbey United pioneers? We need to know, and if you have any information that could help, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, the outcomes of the Coconuts research are nearing fulfilment: a booklet will be published in the coming months, and there will also be a display at the Museum of Cambridge.
Before I go, I should tell you who finished third in that 1913 costers’ race: a certain J Doggett.
100 Years of Coconuts continues to work in partnership with Cambridge United Community Trust and Dementia Compass in running monthly sports cafés at the Abbey Stadium, helping people with dementia to recall the past.
The monthly sessions use memorabilia, photographs, memory cards, newspaper cuttings and other objects to help evoke memories of days gone by. This kind of activity can have a positive effect on health and wellbeing, and can also help to combat depression and loneliness. Feedback from guests and their partners and/or carers is heartening.
Over tea and biscuits, participants discuss their memories of sporting triumphs (and failures), great teams, star performers and remarkable events. Sometimes there's an extra element – a behind-the-scenes tour of the Abbey, a visit to Coconuts' mini-museum or a talk from legendary U's goalkeeper Rodney Slack.
The next sports café will take place at 2pm on Wednesday, June 13. If you know of someone who would enjoy and benefit from taking part, contact Andy Farrer (email@example.com) or Pat Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.