Football-mad youngster recalls coming face-to-face with his heroes in Newcastle


Reading recent articles about the Four in Hand (PMT Café), in Liverpool Road Newcastle, brought back lots of happy memories for me.

As a young boy who was football mad in the early 1960s, I was a dedicated autograph hunter. This was in the days before the building of the M6 motorway.

I would meet up on a Saturday night with my friend Cecil Cheney and we would have our autograph books, footballer’s photographs, Charles Buchan’s football monthlies, Soccer Star magazines and all our other treasured football memorabilia laid out.

Ronnie Allen played for Port Vale before moving to West Brom

We sat studying all the football fixtures for the following Saturday to find where we could get our best pictures signed.

After a sleepless Friday night thinking about what Saturday would bring we would meet up at 10 o’clock and set off for Newcastle.

We would be standing outside the café at 10.30am with autograph books and pens at the ready. With Stoke being in the second division and Port Vale in the third division we never had the chance to see first division players play and in those days they only showed the FA cup final on the television.

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At the time Aston Villa, West Bromwich and Birmingham City were all members of the old first division. Their team coaches would travel up the A34 and stop at The Four in Hand for morning coffees at elevenish when they had matches in Lancashire. We would feel 10 feet tall sitting and having a drink with Don Howe, Derek Kevan and Gerry Hitchens, all England internationals, The Williams brothers who were Welsh internationals and lots of others.

One Saturday morning saw a surprise visit from Jonny Prescott the heavyweight boxer and his autograph went into my book. This was in the days before footballers were unapproachable and were earning vast sums of money.

If Stoke were at home our next port of call would be Longport Station. A sixpence (2½p) ticket and we would be on the train and off to Stoke Station.

From there we would go across to the North Staffs Hotel where we would wait outside.

Double trophy winning Tottenham Hotspurs midfielder Dave Mackay Page 10 & 11 wkd www Feb 21st

At about one o’clock Sir Stanley Matthews would walk out with Jackie Mudie, Tommy Thomson and Doug Newlands.

We would get our photographs of them signed and walk behind them to the Victoria Ground. We would then wait for the rest of the players to arrive and the away team coach, when we would start ‘autographing’ again.

At three o’clock we would be in to watch the match, before heading off to Stoke Station again and getting a train to Stone.

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The Crown in Stone was our destination where Burnley, Bolton and Blackburn would be stopping at about 6.30pm for a meal after playing in the Midlands.

Unfortunately we were not allowed in the hotel, but we waited outside on the car park by the coach.

On one memorable occasion Burnley had played Tottenham in an FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park and they arrived at The Crown for a meal and drinks. I had a coloured team picture of Burnley and I got every player on the picture signed except Adam Blacklaw.

When he eventually came out after a few drinks he took my pen off me and attempted to sign the picture, but to my horror it went right through the page leaving a hole in the photograph.

FA Cup winning Aston Villa Team

We got the big three’s autographs – Dougan, Dobing and Douglas – Ronnie Clayton and a host of other stars. It was magic coming home with their signatures.

Obviously the day’s fixtures did not always fit in with this programme.

We would fit a Port Vale match in if Stoke were away and collect autographs outside Vale Park. The names weren’t as big, but the excitement was still the same.

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If the Midland, Lancashire or the Lancashire Midland football programme did not fit in with our timetable we would travel to Crewe Station after the Vale or Stoke match and wait on the station. Here the London Clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – would be passing through on the train.

We would board the train as it waited in the station and get as many autographs as possible before the train moved out.

Very often it would be touch and go if we got off the train before it moved out of the station.

I recall on one occasion Jack Kelsey the famous Arsenal and Wales goalkeeper asked me to pass my autograph book through the train window and go and fetch him a cup of tea.

Arsenal keepr Jack Kelsey

I got the tea and he passed my book back signed by all the Arsenal players – luckily before the train left the station.

Arriving home at 9.30pm we would start scanning the fixtures and our photographs ready for next week’s excitement.

In the summer they used to hold a professional footballers golfing tournament and we kept track of the course this was being held at.

I remember one year it was played at Trentham, with Ronnie Allen, Stan Lynn, Peter McParland, Don Revie and a host of other big names playing and we added their autographs to our collections.

The following year it was held at Sandwell Park, West Bromwich, so off we went again. It was a day dreams are made on.

I asked Dave McKay if I could caddy for him (even though I knew nothing about golf) and I wheeled his clubs around and couldn’t believe my luck.

After the tournament he took my book off me and took me into the clubhouse where I got Danny Blanchflower’s, John White’s and lots of other autographs.

It is so sad how far football and footballers have moved away from the boy in the street.

With the M6 passing us by and the superstars becoming untouchable in glass cages, some even flying to their away fixtures.

Oh for those days and the Four in Hand.





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