This article appeared in edited form in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the game against Crawley Town on Wednesday, 26 December 2018.
We’re not announcing the results of the 2019 Cambridge United Hall of Fame vote yet – the process doesn’t even close until the year does – but it’s been interesting to see certain trends emerging.
Among the nominations for pre-1979 players and managers, there’s been a healthy number for the human brick wall that was Terry Eades, for Abbey United legend Harvey Cornwell and for the hugely talented inside forward Len Saward, among other star names.
Another popular nominee is Brian Moore, the Belfast-born forward who, across four seasons in black and amber from December 1956, made scoring goals look like child’s play.
Imagine watching someone score 113 goals in 161 U’s games, including 68 in one astonishing season. Now do your best to imagine that someone scoring all those goals while effectively blind in one eye.
Moore made light of a disability that would have finished most footballers’ careers before they had started. And when he’d finished at Newmarket Road, he crossed the river to become a hero at Cambridge City … and then at Wisbech Town, Boston United and Newmarket Town.
His career would have been very different had not fate, and a heavy leather football, intervened.
As Andrew Bennett related in Risen from the Dust, Moore’s displays for Glentoran and Distillery had attracted big clubs’ attention in 1955, and his early showings for West Ham promised great things to come.
He was only 21 when he was hit in the face during a fixture at Middlesbrough. He managed to play on but it was found that the ball’s lace had so badly damaged the retina in his right eye that he was effectively blind on that side.
Moore, advised that another such blow could deprive him of sight altogether, stopped playing, even though a degree of blurred vision began to return to the damaged eye. Then along came Bert Johnson.
The United player-manager offered him incentives to return to the game in Cambridge that proved irresistible: a job with Pye Telecom and the chance to play for the U’s alongside the legendary Wilf Mannion.
It wasn’t long before he was thrilling supporters with goals and skills galore, with the help of teammates like Mannion and Ron Murchison calling to tell him when their passes were arriving on his 'blind' side.
In his annus mirabilis of 1957/58 he just couldn’t help scoring: he’d racked up 30 goals in all competitions before Christmas and reached 68 in a mere 52 games.
New manager, new rules: for the 1960/61 season his namesake gaffer Alan Moore, who had followed Johnson and Bill Craig, decreed that his squad would all be full-time footballers, placing his star striker in a quandary.
Not wanting to lose his job at Pye’s, he left for Milton Road and a new chapter in an amazing career.
Above, Brian Moore scores at the Corona End. Below, Moore (second left) with two Charlton players and United player-manager Bert Johnson (right) inspect an inscribed ball presented to Moore to mark his 68 goals in 1957/58. Photos: Cambridge Daily News
Above, Brian Moore (left) leaves the Newmarket Road ground with teammate Jimmy Campbell during the 1958/59 season. Below, Moore with wife Pamela and newborn son Peter James. Photos: Cambridge Daily News