1978- The second successive promotion really put United on the football map. For the first time ever they would be entering the FA Cup at the 3rd round stage, being in the top 44 League clubs in the country. Second place in the third division was achieved with mainly the same squad. Terry Owen (father of Michael) and Sammy Morgan a Northern Ireland international were the only new signings. There was however a big change on the managerial side with Atkinson departing for West Bromwich Albion, soon to take full back Brendan Batson with him and form what became known as football’s “Three Degrees” with Cyril Regis and Laurie Cunningham. Atkinson left United in early January with United sitting in fourth place and any worries that form would be affected were laid to rest by the end of the month when United hit top spot and remained in the top 3 until the end of the season under the guidance of duel managers John Docherty and Paddy Sowden.
The fact that it’s really hard to pick out any outstanding individuals highlights the fact that it was an all-round team effort. If pushed I would have to say Tom Finney with his combative midfield play and the battering ram centre forward play of Sammy Morgan made the most difference. But it’s hard to ignore the contributions of Fallon, Biley, and Spriggs as it was the previous season, also those of Malcolm Webster in goal, Lindsay Smith and the ever reliable Dave Stringer.
Locally there was lots of speculation about United either building a new stadium or extending the Abbey. Lots of local people were fearful of the extra volume of away fans attending the Abbey but at the same time were against any redevelopment. So it was a bit of a catch 22 situation. The Cambridge Evening News took time off from reporting complaints about the Kite area ( now the Grafton Shopping Centre) redevelopment , Robinson College being built and the Science Park expanding to highlight the problem of “next season’s invading army of fans”. Six years later United were still in the second division and there were still objections to their very exsistance. Andy’s Records on the market and Mill Road, Barney’s on Mill Road and the Rex club on Magrath Avenue are other places I frequented, all long gone now..
Happy Harry's blog
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