An edited version of this article appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme for the game against Luton Town on 3 March 2018.
When talk turns to big clubs’ practice of ‘stockpiling’ young players, whereby the closest most will ever get to first-team football is on loan at another club, the word ‘Chelsea’ often crops up.
With good reason: at the time of writing, Roman Abramovich’s pet project had 38 players out on loan, and goodness knows how many other youngsters queuing up behind them.
The West London giants have always had an eye for young talent, but there was no question of stockpiling when they snapped up the 19-year-old Ian Hutchinson from United in 1968. Nor is there any suggestion that the Pensioners had anything but the best of intentions for the career of Abbey United’s youthful George Alsop when he left for Stamford Bridge in the early 1920s.
Nigel Browne’s research into Barnwell families of the early 20th century – part of a Coconuts team’s scrutiny of the everyday lives of people in east Cambridge during World War I – shows that our George Alsop was probably born in 1902 and was living with his parents at 481 Newmarket Road in 1911.
It’s possible that his dad sold his East Road wheelwright’s business to Donald Mackay, whose family still runs the engineering and hardware emporium. It’s also possible that his mum was one of the Ivett family who helped to found the Ivett & Reed stonemasonry company on Newmarket Road.
We are going to find out about other aspects of Alsop’s life. One thing we do know is that he was some player.
The late Andrew Bennett’s book Newmarket Road Roughs (available for purchase through the CFU online store) reveals that he marshalled the Abbey United defence in 1921/22, the club’s first season of competitive football. Then he was off to Chelsea.
You’ll search in vain for internet mentions of George Alsop in a Chelsea FC connection. We’re making enquiries of the club historian, but it seems that, having made the enormous leap from the Cambs League to Football League Division One, Alsop got no further than Blues’ reserves.
Restored to the Abbey team as centre half and captain by 1924, he made an immediate impact in the season’s opening Cambs League Division One match at St Ives, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win.
Two weeks later, after a 6-2 defeat of Cottenham in which he again scored twice, the Cambridge Daily News raved: ‘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 was prominent in Abbey’s progress over the next few seasons; he’s pictured below in the middle of the front row of the all-conquering 1924/25 team.
But by the early 30s his influence was declining and, having appeared 160 times and scored 62 goals, he played his last Wasps game in 1932.
We have much to discover about this fascinating personality, and perhaps you can help. If you have any information about George Alsop or his family, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.