Monday, 29 November 2010

Get with the programme, pt. 2

I remember more about this one: Hillingdon Borough v Watford in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup on Saturday December 11th, 1976. I went with a schoolfriend and his dad, who drove us there; it may well have been my first Watford away match. It was freezing cold – much like today, in fact – and I have a very clear memory of sitting in the car after the game, listening to the other FA Cup scores on the radio as we queued to get out of the ‘car park’ (a rutted field at one end of the ground) and waited for the ice on the windows to melt.

I remember the game, too. We were stood directly behind one of the goals (the Leas Stadium didn’t run to terraces), and Andy Rankin let in a soft goal right in front of us. It may well have been an equaliser, but the Hornets eventually won 3-2 against the Southern League side to go through to the 3rd Round – where we lost to another non-league outfit, Northwich Victoria, by the same score on an even colder day in January 1977. I can still picture myself huddled against the radiator in my bedroom, listening to the result on the radio.

The Hillingdon programme is written in an appealingly gauche style. “Here’s to an exciting win with preferably Boro’ going into the hat for the third round draw,” it says in the introduction (the pages aren’t numbered), while the Blues Corner column (written by ‘The Voice’) adds that “after the way our boys played against Torquay there is every valid reason for us to look forward to another league scalp”.

The gaucheness extends to the adverts. Who could resist ‘Dancing in the social hall’ on Saturday 18th December from 9pm to 11pm with Tangent, or the Christmas Eve Special from 9pm to midnight with Midnight Riders? Presumably these acts came from the Norman Jackson Agency, prominently advertised on the inside front cover: ‘For Dance bands, Hawaiian, Steel and Gypsy bands, beat groups, discotheques, toastmasters, folk groups and all forms of cabaret. Speciality: Stag shows and hen parties.’ The fact that they were still hiring out ‘beat groups’ less than a fortnight after the Sex Pistols’ notoriously sweary appearance on Bill Grundy’s ITV teatime show is almost impossibly quaint.

Mike Keen’s Watford team that day included players who would go on to play an important part in the glory years, such as Keith Pritchett and Roger Joslyn, but also long-forgotten journeymen like Tony Geidmintis and Peter Coffill. The ‘pen pictures’ give the birthplaces of the 18-man squad, and they’re all in London or the Home Counties, apart from Andy Rankin (Liverpool), Terry Eades (Cambridge), Arthur Horsfield (Newcastle) and Bobby Downes (Bloxwich).

As for Hillingdon Borough, they went bust in the late 80s, though they’ve since been resurrected and now play in the Spartan South Midlands League alongside the likes of Oxhey Jets and Tring Athletic. Still, as the programme I have in front of me notes, they did beat Luton Town 2-1 in the 2nd Round of the FA Cup in 1969, and you’ve got to say hats off to them for that, if nothing else.

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