An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the game against Chesterfield on 21 October 2017.
Mem’ries light the corners of my mind, warbled Ms Streisand. Misty water-coloured mem’ries of the way we were. I’m not the biggest fan of La Streisand in Barnwell – more of a Stackridge kinda chap, really – but the lady does have her uses.
There’s a lot of tremendous work going on in the football community that uses memories in a positive way. Look at the work of the Sporting Memories Foundation, at Norwich City’s brilliant Still on the Ball scheme or at any one of dozens of other projects. You’ll see how working with older people who live with dementia, depression and/or loneliness, helping them recall sporting memories, can have terrific benefits for their health and wellbeing.
We at 100 Years of Coconuts have seen that at first hand – our work with older people, at our The Story of the U’s museum and in the Cambridgeshire community, is fantastically rewarding for all parties.
We’re tickled pink to be partnering Cambridge United Community Trust in preparing for the memory sessions it’s aiming to run from the new year.
So we were thrilled when a volunteer at a project in Newcastle wrote to say he’d been chatting to a former U’s player who recalled his time in Cambridge fondly.
As Andrew Bennett shows in his must-read Risen from the Dust, the second volume of his Celery & Coconuts history of our club, centre forward Billy Taylor arrived at Newmarket Road in the summer of 1955. He started the season’s first Eastern Counties League game but played just once more before slipping off the first-team radar.
Is that the end of our interest in Billy? Not on your nelly. His memories take us into fascinating territory inhabited by characters with prominent roles in the story of Cambridge football.
Billy, who was at Newcastle United between 1950 and 1955, landed in our fair city during his national service stint with the Royal Artillery. Among his recollections are those of chauffeuring for a certain Jim Rioch, regimental sergeant major of the Scots Guards.
Bruce Rioch: fan of Wilf Mannion during his Cambridge United days.
Jim was celebrated for more than his elevated rank: an outstanding athlete, he threw the hammer for Great Britain and shrugged off all challenges for the title of Imperial Services champion at bayonet fighting. You would want him to be on your side if you happened to be fighting in the Malayan jungle. And he was on United’s side during his time in Cambridge.
Jim and his pals in the Allotments End (imagine a shallow bank in the green space in front of the South Stand, kids), became known as the Oughta Club because their opinions often contained variations on the phrase ‘He oughta do this …’ or ‘He oughta do that …’ A later Oughta Club earned the name for their observations while laying terracing.
Jim’s sons Bruce and Neil joined him at home games (as well as Cambridge City's) and Bruce later recalled lapping up Wilf Mannion’s sumptuous skills during his 1956-58 stay at Newmarket Road.
The Rioch boys later became stellar performers in the Cambridge City Schoolboys team and went on to earn international schoolboy honours – Bruce for Scotland, Neil for England.
It’s a pity that Jim’s next posting took him to Luton, where the boys’ football careers took off. Bruce went on to win 24 Scottish caps and manage some of the biggest clubs in the land, while Neil made a mark with Aston Villa. They oughta have stayed in Cambridge. Cheerio Harry