This article appeared in the Cambridge United official programme for the game against Doncaster Rovers on 6 December 2015.
With today’s technology, manipulation of photographs for whatever purpose, devious or innocent, is the simplest of tasks. It’s laughably easy to iron out a facial wrinkle, brighten a dull autumn sky or, say, pop a poppy on to a politician’s lapel. It’s easy, in other words, to make things appear not as they really are.
Back in 1979 it was a bit harder, but photo manipulation was nevertheless a flourishing art, in Fleet Street as well as in graphic design studios the world over. For example, taking a pair of scissors or a scalpel to a print to alter reality was known in some journalistic circles as doing a Hammersmith, in tribute to the surgeons of the west London hospital. An altogether different process, however, was employed to take the cover photo of one football club’s matchday programme and turn it into the cover photo of another football club’s matchday programme.
Strange but true, and it happened here. We’re indebted to the wonderful Brighton & Hove Albion retro blog The Goldstone Wrap for doing the legwork on this story of copycattery, which explains how legendary Seagulls striker Peter Ward ended up as a U’s cover star.
On Tuesday, 22 August 1978, United, newly arrived in Division Two of the Football League following a second successive promotion, were playing at the Goldstone Ground, whose site is now partly occupied by a drive-through Burger King. It was something of a surprise when a goal from Floyd Streete and an og by Brighton defender Graham Winstanley led the visitors to a 2-0 win in front of 21,548 spectators. The Seagulls were, after all, being tipped for promotion to the top tier that year and had a predator in Ward who had snatched 36 goals in 1976/77 and 17 the following season.
Perhaps the U’s players had flicked through the programme in the dressing room before the game, wincing inwardly at the front-cover image of Ward in typical pose, snaking sinuously between three Blackpool defenders. They were to become much more familiar with that photograph.
In the opinion of the Wrap, United not only left the south coast with the win, they also took away the programme and, using ‘blotchy felt tips’, traced the Ward image for future use on their own publication. It was probably with a measure of indignation, and perhaps hilarity, that Albion supporters regarded the programme when they travelled to the Abbey on Tuesday, 4 September 1979. There are the felt tips and there’s Wardy weaving his way through the Tangerine lines, only this time he’s a U, looking a bit like an out-of-focus Tommy Horsfall. And the felt tip artist has cunningly changed a shirt number.
Brighton had the last laugh. They’d already won the first leg of the League Cup first round tie 2-0 at the Goldstone, and they completed a 4-1 aggregate score at the Abbey. ‘It proved that cheats don’t always prosper, at least not ones armed with felt tip pens and a high level of temerity,’ observes the Wrap.
Dave Brown wrote much of what appeared in the programme in those days, but we don’t know if it was his idea to raid WH Smith for fibre tips. Was it secretary Les Holloway? Commercial manager Dudley Arliss? A designer at Eastern Counties Printers? Please tell us if you know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.