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NEWS:...a different world then.....


Back in the day...

By Mobbs
July 20 2017

Who remembers Harold Macmillan's "You've never had it so good" speech back in the late 1950's? In a superb article Mobbs takes a look at how the world of sport & especially rugby has changed in our town over the years. Was the world a better place in days gone by? You decide & debate please  

You know, I often hear it said that Northampton is a 'rugby town' and I suppose that for most of the professional era that is the case. Saints, after all, have won the European Cup and Premiership, not to mention sundry other trophies along the way. A fine stadium has been built with a superb playing surface that is the envy of most clubs in the top flight. We are struggling to keep in touch with some other clubs at the moment but in the last ten years we have still managed to attract names such as Spencer, Matfield, North and Picamoles to the East Midlands even if those signings have not always been the success we might have envisaged. If you were, say, fifteen years old when Northampton Rugby Football Club beat Munster to lift the European title, then perhaps you cannot really imagine a time when the Saints did not rule the roost in the town but it wasn't always so.

 

You would have to be over fifty to think back and remember a time when the Sturtridge Pavillion did not exist. A little younger and you might just recall the Gordon Terrace and its tin roof with a rope and a line of trees where the South Stand now dominates the stadium. You might be surprised to learn of the rowing boat that was used to recover balls from the lake after a kick at goal. There may be some who played bowls where the 'village' now stands. Perhaps there are none now left who swam in the Lido which now sits underneath the VIP car park behind the Tetleys Stand. More certain will be those who knew the Salon and its successor discotheques which were an intrinsic part of the social scene of the town from long before the second world war. Yes, it was a different place back then, before the 'lighthouse' was built, when tennis courts were available to those who belonged to the Express Lifts Sports and Social Club. The Bingo Hall started life as a ten-pin bowling alley before becoming a supermarket and only later echoed to 'eyes down for a full house'.

 

A good house for the Saints at one time would be no more than two or three thousand spectators who might cram the ground for a big local derby against Coventry or Leicester. The annual Mobbs Memorial match between the East Midlands and the Barbarians was a serious midweek afternoon fixture with many schoolboys being given the afternoon off to attend; not quite fair to the girls at Notre Dame or Derngate but once again, different days back then. Saints were a big club in the overall scheme of things, amateur of course, though I have little doubt that unmarked brown envelopes may have appeared in some players shoes by the time they got changed after the game. The Easter tour to Wales and the West Country was a feature for many years and players thought little of playing back to back games with little time for rest and recuperation from either the match or the social aftermath.

 

I always had the impression that the Saints crowd fifty years ago had a touch of Town and County about its make-up. If you lived in the St James or Duston area you probably went to Franklins Gardens whilst if you came from the other parts of the town you may well have favoured the County Ground. In the main stand there seemed to be a collegiate atmosphere with spectators willing their team on but not really too concerned about the result as long as it had been a good game – yes, some things have most definitely changed ! Big name players, sure, Saints had plenty of them. Dickie Jeeps and Don White, Bob Taylor, Bryan West, Jacko Page, Keith Savage, David Powell, Peter Larter and many more....it was a long list.

 

If, like me, you went to the NGSB on the Billing Road, you were sucked into a culture of rugby from day one of your first term at the school. I had a British Lion, the late Frank Sykes, as my coach ( not that it did me too much good ) and the role of honour of former pupils who had played for Saints and England was a long one; a tradition that thankfully continues to this day. We even had another England Captain who came to the school for teaching experience in the form to Tony Bucknall who made his name playing for Richmond. I would have loved to have had the honour of playing in the blue and stripes of the first fifteen at school but sadly never got within a million miles of the opportunity due to a complete and utter lack of ability.

 

I said at the outset that people refer to Northampton as a 'rugby town'. Well, back in the day, it was not like that at all. We are all used to seeing our friends from Sixfields languishing in what we used to call Division Three and Four of the Football League but as most of you will know, it was not always so. For all their long history the Cobblers have spent a grand total of four seasons outside the ground floor and basement of the 'other game'. Three of those four campaigns were however magnificent in terms of triumph and achievement whilst the fourth is best left to be one of calamity. The story of the climb and fall is well known and does not need repeating here other than to say that the attendance figures at the County Ground dwarfed those seen at Franklins Gardens. I remember a survey in the late lamented 'Charles Buchans Football Monthly' magazine which showed that the Cobblers had one of the very best ratios of attendance to population in the football league. Five figure gates were commonplace and of course, during the quasi-tragic season 1965-66, the highest crowds of all were seen culminating in twenty-four thousand for the relegation decider against Fulham. As an aside, if you believe all those who say they watched George Best score six goals at the County Ground in the fifth round of the FA Cup, then the crowd for that game has to be fifty thousand plus !

 

Before leaving the brief sojourn in which I refer to the Cobblers, I will leave you with this quick teaser. What, apart from the blindingly obvious do the following names have in common: Banks, Cohen, Wilson, Stiles, J Charlton, Moore, Ball, Hunt, Hurst, R Charlton and Peters ?

 

Well, they all played at the County Ground against the Cobblers in the months preceding the golden July day in which England won the World Cup against West Germany. You can actually go a little further on this one in saying that eight of the eleven remaining members of Alf Ramsey's squad also came and played at Abington Avenue that season, the only exceptions being Terry Paine and Ron Flowers who were playing for teams in Division Two at the time whilst the great Jimmy Greaves was injured when Tottenham came to call...............different days indeed.

Before we return to matters regarding rugby, it would be incorrect not to remember that our town, indeed our County, has another team playing 'the summer game'. Back in the day, a more than half decent team playing in a ramshackle ground but one nonetheless challenging for the holy grail of the County Championship.

 

By common consent, the County had the best wicket-keeper in the country in the form of their captain Keith Andrew; just a shame he could not bat to save his life. We had a big dangerous England fast bowler in the injury prone David Larter. Add to this mix a classy opener in Roger Prideaux, a sergeant-major in Brian Reynolds, a bespectacled David Steele years before his glory with England against Thompson and Lillee but we also had a potential superstar in the late lamented Colin Milburn.

 

Milburn was in his day the figure equivalent to Botham, Flintoff or Stokes. A roly poly cricketer from Durham, he batted as a Cavalier, was a more than useful part-time bowler and fielded like a dream as long as no running was involved. When his Captain, a little worried by Milburns weight, suggested in the bar one night that he should cut down on the pints, the reply came straight back 'two halves then please skipper..'

 

Back to back victories against the West Indians in 1966 and 1969 with a win over the Australians thrown in....yes, we had a decent cricket team back in the day albeit one still chasing that Championship flag despite success in limited over and latterly 20/20

pyjama cricket !

 

Thinking about it, our three teams in what was once a small town and now is perhaps a city in all but name, have always been to an extent under-achievers. Saints have eclipsed their local rivals in winning two very significant prizes since the turn of the century and now must be regarded as the senior team in Northampton/Shire sport. We cannot match the spending power of some other clubs and as such will ultimately fall short more often than not though as Exeter Chiefs and indeed Leicester City have demonstrated, nothing is impossible even at the highest level.

 

Another season beckons, new players, old faces, high hopes, big dreams all of which will be looked back in twenty years time as a 'different world back then '…......

 

Mobbs

COYS

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Marching On
NEWS:...a different world then.....
Marching On (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 09:05
What do you think? You can have your say by posting below.
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Saint Ted
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Saint Ted (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 09:07
Many thanks to Mobbs for this superb article and apologies for the balls up, I could see the article but nobody else could!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:07:20:09:18:18 by Saint Ted.

 
Dick Dastardly
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Thrupp artist (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 09:28
Thanks for reissuing this - it jogs many happy memories.

 
HungryLikeTheWolf
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
HungryLikeTheWolf (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 09:50
Great piece, reminiscing about Rattling Rita

 
twsaint
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
twsaint (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 10:26
What about the gents toilets underneath the stand at the lake end ? What a smell of urine.
My Dad and I sat in Row J at that end.

 
MESSAGES->author
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
higgy365 (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 11:57
Well remember banging on the corrugated iron at the back of the old Gordon Terrace with my dad to make more noise as the crowds were pretty sparse at times back then.

And not surprised the gents stank given ithe urinal was a drainpipe cut in half and installed on a tilt so that gravity pulled everything down to the sewers!

Those were the days eh?

 
Saint Ted
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Saint Ted (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 12:04
Quote:
twsaint
What about the gents toilets underneath the stand at the lake end ? What a smell of urine.
My Dad and I sat in Row J at that end.

Was that the one that was essentially just a length of guttering?

 
tedge
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
tedge (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 12:16
Great article Mobbs - so much of it mirrors my own background of attending the same school from the mid-fifties and following all three of the sports sides from then onwards. Not too many English towns/cities boast fully professional teams in the three main team ball game sports so, although as you say for most of their histories Saints have been the most successful and the other two less so, we are pretty fortunate.

 
twsaint
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
twsaint (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 12:56
Quote:
Saint Ted
Quote:
twsaint
What about the gents toilets underneath the stand at the lake end ? What a smell of urine.
My Dad and I sat in Row J at that end.

Was that the one that was essentially just a length of guttering?

No sit down facilities, no washing facilities. I'm not sure there was even a light. But we didn't complain.

 
BrianB
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
BrianB (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 14:01
I used to get up 2 hours before I went to bed.....

 
Saint Ted
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Saint Ted (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 15:20
One of the things I've picked up from this thread and others where schools are being discussed is the amount of us that went to NGSB/NSB, suppose it kind of makes some sense given how important rugby was/is at the school

 
tedge
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
tedge (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 15:40
When I went there Ted rugby was king in the winter and cricket in the summer. Those of us who grew up playing football were disappointed it wasn't played at the school, although that changed in later years, and apprehensive about learning this much more physical game. I think most of us learned to love it even if we weren't very good at it and links to Saints were always evident in the selection of PE teachers. I imagine these days sport there has been much more diluted by the emphasis on a wider range, so far fewer quality rugby players emerge these days.

 
Saint Ted
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Saint Ted (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 15:49
I left in 96/97 Tedge and rugby was still the dominant sport.

Would assume it still is, couple of years ago they were in the national finals, think Tupais lad was playing.

Recent coaches have included Grays and Ian Vass I believe

 
tboullem
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Mobbs (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 15:50
During my time it was rugby in the winter for years one to four unless of course the pitches were unusable in which case the dreaded cross country run came into play. Only when one was in the fifth or sixth form could you play football on one of the two available pitches, which were the bottom level and the ON's. Sports masters tended to be rugby orientated and here I am thinking of Messrs Sykes, Smart, Ebsworth and Jones III.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:07:20:15:53:03 by Mobbs.

 
Dick Dastardly
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Thrupp artist (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 16:00
Towcester GS (Sponne) of course also contributed quite a few top players in the "old days" - including Ian George (Jamie's dad) who I always thought was a considerable talent (9/10/15) possibly slightly blighted by his versatility.

 
tedge
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
tedge (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 16:19
When I was in the 4th form they started an under 16 side run by one "Smiler" Randall and it played against local secondary schools like Bective and a few others I can't recall which played rugby as well as football. Playing for that side proved to be my zenith in the game but great fun. Those of us who preferred football used to book park pitches on Saturday mornings. The most well known footballer at the school in my time was Jim Hall who went on to play for the Cobblers in the first division and had a long career also playing for Peterborough and Cambridge United. Pete "Sammy" Phipps played as a semi-pro for Kettering Town and I later played in the United Counties league. Occasionally playing on a Saturday afternoon on Dallington Park we would hear a huge roar from down the road and someone would say "Saints have scored" and we would eagerly wait for the "Green 'un", later the "Pink 'un" to come out at six in the evening with full reports on the Cobblers by "Flag Kick" and Saints by "Touch judge" or some such nom de plume. Happy days !

 
twsaint
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
twsaint (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 16:30
Trinity contributes a few, notably Trevor Crane and Chris Morgan.

Lunchtime team training meant no sandwiches allowed before you went out and throwing them down your throat as quicky as possible after training. My wife wonders why I eat so quickly.

We too had cross country when the rugby pitches were frozen solid.Up Kenmuir Avenue and over the two golf courses. Dreadful.

Although we got murdered by NGSB in the Under 15 town rugby final , we beat them at cricket.In the sixth form rain saved them and we beat them at hockey.

 
Saint Stokey
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Saint Stokey (IP Logged)
20/07/2017 19:04
Pitsford (NGS back then) too was heavily rugby orientaged. We had Olver snr and Barry Burgess as coaches. Although I only remember them as Sir and Sir!

We weren't allowed to play football. It was rugby and rugby with a smattering of cricket and cross country.

I seem to remember our 1st XV getting pretty far in the Daily Mail cup at times. I know that there were a number of county and possibly age group capped players but I don't think many ran out for Saints.

 
Corkst
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Corkst (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 03:29
Great article - brought back memories of walking to the Mobbs match in KUS school uniform from Kingsthorpe and being a bit nervous about walking through Kingsheath, then getting three sheets to the wind in Trinity clubhouse prior to the game. The mention of Jacko Page reminded me of an anecdote told by my brother who had played with him at the gardens when he was younger. By this time my brother was about to start a game with Trinity seconds or thirds at Dallington Park when he spotted Jacko in the distance and shouted across "have you got your kit Jacko?" (They were a man short) and the response came "I have but I wouldn't come over there if you f***in paid me!".

 
harryw
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
harryw (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 04:24
Great article Mobbs we must be of the same vintage first year at NGS was 1955 so we probably shared a number of Saints as PT masters.

Brown envelopes were not in evidence in the era of REG Jeeps as I have it on good authority that an incoming Welsh centre when approached for his match fee asked how much it was and then replied is that all we get?

I have vague memories of the lido in disrepair and spent many an afternoon under the Gordon Stand when the rugby was less than interesting .

Brought back memories of sitting on the hill pre Sturtridge days and recalling Phil Bennett for the Baa Baas playing dry weather rugby on as it was then a quagmire.

Off for a Sanatogen and a milk arrowroot followed by a nap.

Thanks for the memories



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2017:07:21:04:27:41 by harryw.

 
ch saint
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
ch saint (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 08:02
Super article of the high quality and content we come to expect from Mobbs.
I was at a do last night also attended by David (Piggy) Powell and mentioned the article to him. Of course his memories of the club are legendary and I enjoyed listening to numerous anecdotes. An evening with him at the club would be most enjoyable. I had forgotten he was went on two Lions tours, what an achievement.
As an engineer by initial training I can only marvel at the shear cost efficiency and functionality of that piece of guttering/drainpipe. Installation cost about a tenner, maintenance cost zero, volume of liquid transported over life of product-best not dwelt on.

 
tboullem
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Mobbs (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 08:17
Steady Chaps, if you are not careful you might be in store for 'Ramblings 2' or 'Son of Ramblings'...........

 
rugbymel
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
rugbymel (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 08:50
An enjoyable and well written article Mobbs, stirring memories from others. I have no early life connection with Saints but I do find personal recollections like this fascinating. I would welcome chapter 2. In fact I'm sure there are lots of Saints related memories hidden away in the heads of this board's contributors, some of which may be repeatable. I wonder if it would be possible to build up a bank of such article which could be slotted in on slow news weeks, especially in the off season, while we are awaiting the signing of the next messiah.

I also think an evening with David Powell is an excellent idea, perhaps hosted by Martin Bayfield or Paul Grayson.

 
tboullem
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Mobbs (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 10:03
Bear with me, I will get the thinking cap on.........

I wonder if some memories of 'big days' across the Northampton sporting divide might be of interest ?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:07:21:15:50:33 by Mobbs.

 
Philnic
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Philnic (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 11:42
This all resonates with me, very familiar stories to those my dad used to tell me, he would have joined NGS in 1956. Many thanks.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:07:21:11:57:02 by Philnic.

 
Flyhooker
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Flyhooker (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 16:22
I attended Duston School and one week we went down to watch the Mobbs match. We were a week early so we helped ourselves to some apples stored nearby by the "Quick Turnover" . Yes we returned the next week also to watch the match with no permission from the school.
My dad told me about Phil Benet playing for the Ba baas and the pitch was a quagmire but he skated over it like a fly and was untouchable.
The family is from Jimmies end so they all went swimming in the lido etc and all big saints supporters. One played for the Wanderers and Trinity also

 
Stingray66
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Stingray66 (IP Logged)
21/07/2017 17:08
Quote:
Flyhooker
I attended Duston School and one week we went down to watch the Mobbs match. We were a week early so we helped ourselves to some apples stored nearby by the "Quick Turnover" . Yes we returned the next week also to watch the match with no permission from the school.
My dad told me about Phil Benet playing for the Ba baas and the pitch was a quagmire but he skated over it like a fly and was untouchable.
The family is from Jimmies end so they all went swimming in the lido etc and all big saints supporters. One played for the Wanderers and Trinity also

I was at that game too and I swear blind Phil Bennett didn't even get his boots dirty!
I was also at a Mobbs game where Tom David and Fergus Slattery ended up in the centre. Can someone confirm that I didn't dream that!

 
Longers
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
Longers (IP Logged)
22/07/2017 14:41
It might be suggested that I am here as a result of all this -

My mum was out for the night at the Salon, before the war.
Dad had just finished training at the Gardens and snuck in through the back door to scrounge some food. Dad met mum.

Fast forward a couple of years, and they were married in Abington Park church just before WW2 broke out.

Fast forward to after the war and I came along.

Dad would take me to the Gardens in winter and the county ground in the summer, where I well remember watching those named by Mobbs. I recall Keith Andrew actually getting a stumping off David Larter's bowling! But he did not mention my favourites at the time, the Watts' brothers, Jim and Peter. I can also remember the Windies, as well as the Aussies. We got decent touring side games in those days.

As for Colin Milburn, simply put, he was a lovely man.

You brought a tear to my eye with this piece, Mobbs. Different times!!

 
harryw
Re: NEWS:...a different world then.....
harryw (IP Logged)
23/07/2017 02:05
[quote Longers]As for Colin Milburn, simply put, he was a lovely man.

Met Colin at the Wimpey in Gold Street when had just joined the ground staff, also there were Stuart Jakeman and Malcolm Scott and after a few meetings became friends with all three of them.

Bernard Sunley used to have a Blackwood Hodge side comprising local cricketers and some professionals who played at Ashton in front his house.on Sundays.

Some 2 years later I got into the side as a fielder and Colin was there because not only was he very good but he was a very sociable person so we reconnected and I shared many a pleasant evening with him.

I met him again at the Salon when he was an England cricketer and he came out of his way to come across and spent time chatting about the old days , strange as we were both in our early 20's and to his credit he was the same old smashing person, lovely bloke taken too soon.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2017:07:23:02:22:21 by harryw.

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