After a 6-2 home win over Cottenham two weeks later, the local press hailed him as Abbey’s best player, adding: ‘He was originally a forward, and it was in that capacity that he was signed by Chelsea about two years ago.
‘He was then a good shot, but he has not only benefited by his sojourn with the professionals in that direction, but in all-round football ability.’
Alsop’s career was punctuated by periods when he concentrated on Thursday league football, and there were times when he seemed to be on the verge of signing for Cambridge Town.
But he occupies a prominent place in the list of the most influential players United have ever had.
While the United players were toiling in the Cypriot sun in 1973, the supporters back home were celebrating promotion to Division Three and paying tribute to their player of the year: Brian Greenhalgh.
The 26-year-old striker had finished top of United’s 1972/73 goalscoring charts, notching 18 times in 47 games, but his tally of 19 the previous season had already established him as an Abbey favourite. The fans were certainly glad he had overcome his initial misgivings about dropping from the First Division to the Fourth when Bill Leivers came calling in August 1971.
Greenhalgh made his reputation with Preston North End and Aston Villa, but the goals dried up when he moved to Leicester and then, in 1969, to Huddersfield. Leivers was certain of his potential, but there were some grumbles on the terraces when he failed to score in his first six U’s games.
The moaners were silenced when his first goal came at Bury in September. Greenhalgh then married Annette the following Monday and, five days later, netted four times in a 6-0 drubbing of Darlington.
He drew a blank in his first eight games in 1972/73, but his class was plain to see and the goals soon began to flow again. The winner in a 1-0 win at Workington was a Greenhalgh classic: he allowed a Vic Akers cross to run through his legs at the near post, then flicked it in off a dumbfounded defender.
Eleven more goals followed in 1973/74, but his happy relationship with United fans came to an end in February when Leivers, declaring ‘every player has his price’, sold him to Bournemouth for £40,000.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, the saying goes. Bill Leivers, the manager who took Cambridge United into the Football League, adapted the adage to ‘if you can’t beat ’em, sign ’em’ as he assembled the side that won back-to-back Southern League titles in 1969 and 1970.
Chelmsford City’s championship-winning side of 1967/68 contained many good players, but four of them – striking double act Tony Butcher and Bill Cassidy, centre half Terry Eades and scintillating winger Peter Leggett – were outstanding. So, in one of the most astute managerial moves in United’s history, Leivers persuaded them to fight for the amber and black cause.
The U’s looked like a good side before the arrival of the Chelmsford Four. After it, they had the look of title winners.
First Claret to join the Leivers revolution, in October 1968, was Scottish hitman Cassidy who, having notched 29 goals in Chelmsford’s league-winning season, had spent the summer in the States with the Detroit Cougars. Driving to his Essex home, Leivers persuaded King Cass to jump in his car and follow him back to Cambridge.
Next to arrive, just two days later, was Butcher, Chelmsford’s record goalscorer, for a fee of less than £500. ‘This should solve our failure to score goals,’ observed Leivers.
The others were a little slower to follow. Leggett, hailed as the non-League George Best, signed in March 1969 for an undisclosed fee and a couple of days later Eades followed him to Newmarket Road, the U’s handing over a cheque for £2,500 in return.
‘This finishes my shopping at Chelmsford,’ said Leivers. His spree had laid the foundations for the next stage in United’s rapid evolution, from Cambridgeshire League minnows in the 1940s to Football League members in 1970.
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