Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Unsaintlike Behaviour

Unsaintlike Behaviour

So the reader can get his bearings, the Champion Hill stadium that we have today was built directly on the previous ground that stood here from 1931 to 1991. The Hamlet’s ground before that, the one in this feature, was the neighbouring site, now the Astroturf pitch behind the goal at the Greendales end of the present ground.

We often hear about the famous cup tie that took place at Champion Hill in November 1922 between Dulwich Hamlet and St Albans City. The match, an FA Cup replay after a 1-1 draw, went to extra time and finished 8-7 to the home team, but Wilfred Minter gained the distinction of scoring all seven goals yet finishing on the losing side! The result put Dulwich into the first round proper to meet Clapton, and surely paved the way for St Albans to be elected into the Isthmian League six months later. The latter proved to be an inspired move, and they won the competition at the first attempt in 1923/24. Thus began regular league encounters between two giants of the amateur game that continued for decades.

Minter’s fêted match, was in fact the fourth time the two teams had met in ten months. The earlier contests took place in February of the previous season when they were drawn together in the FA Amateur Cup. And the astonishing thing is that the replay of the 3rd Round fixture at Champion Hill was not without incident either – off the pitch as much as on it.

The first match at Clarence Park was drawn 2-2. Butcher scored both goals for City, and Bill Davis and Sid Nicol for the Hamlet. No further scoring took place in an additional thirty minutes, and so the Athenian League champions had to do it all again a week later at fortress Champion Hill, where Dulwich were unbeaten all season. St Albans could go one better; they had not lost a single match against an Amateur club in over a year – since January 1921.

Both the Hertfordshire side and the south Londoners were each placed in second spot in their respective leagues. Notwithstanding, no one could have predicted the enormity of the crowd that was going to turn up for the replay. Some time before kick off it became increasingly apparent that the facilities would not be able to contain such a huge amount of people. Every seat in the stand was taken and the terraces were quickly filling up to overflowing. So much so, that within a quarter of an hour of the start of the match a decision was taken to close the entrance gates leaving multitudes locked outside.

And then just a few hundred yards away, now arriving at East Dulwich Station were the ‘Football Specials’ cram-full of St Albans supporters. Thousands of them, some bedecked in their yellow and blue scarves and hats, come to cheer their all-conquering Saints, unbeaten for so long. They were totally unaware that over ten thousand souls were already in the stadium, and there was no room for this new influx.

One can easily understand the frustration there must have been. All the hopes and anticipation leading up to the match; the journey into London; the thrills and spills of the first game pondered over on the train; all blotted out in a moment on reaching the Dulwich Hamlet ground.

With the hindsight of the Hillsborough and Heysel disasters, today’s supporter is likely to be a bit more patient and hope that a happy conclusion is swiftly reached. But this was February 1922, and health and safety had not yet been invented. Crowd control was personified a year later at Wembley Stadium by a lone policeman on a white horse.

Desperate to see the match, the masses rushed the gates and forced their way in through the turnstiles. Sections of the timber fencing surrounding the Champion Hill ground were then shaken and pulled and pushed, until after much force entry was gained through the gaps. About three thousand entered the enclosure illegally, and unwittingly made the conditions inside more perilous. It was later reckoned that about a thousand spectators, using broken fencing, clambered onto the roof of the ‘long’ stand to watch the game from there. That seems to be a bit of an over estimate, but whatever the real figure, it certainly went into hundreds. What the people below must have been thinking while all the clatter was going on above their heads is anyone’s guess. Others lodged in trees and on the roof of a pavilion in an adjacent field.

To avoid the crush elsewhere in the ground, many standing repositioned themselves onto the grass along the touchline in front of the railings until every available space surrounding the pitch was filled. And still they came. In one surge the vast numbers filling the terracing behind one of the goals were suddenly swept downwards and many found themselves tangled up in the goal net. In another incident while the match was in progress, a section of the perimeter timber fence collapsed under the pressure of the crowd. According to the press no injuries were reported, but again that might be too difficult to believe.

I would doubt if there were many policemen at the ground, if any at all. There was a faithful team of stewards at Dulwich, but they would have been completely overwhelmed with this record gate. However, the referee, we are told, controlled the affair quite admirably, especially in such unusual circumstances. At one point he was even seen massaging an injured player in a break in the play! Before long the huge crowd gradually settled down, and the compact mass of bodies enjoyed the game.

Edgar Kail slots past the advancing St Albans keeper, W. Tennant.

What took place in the match itself is almost secondary. St Albans began with a ferocious pace and took the lead, Pierce heading in a corner. The legendary Edgar Kail then leveled before the break. In the second half the away side looked drained and Dulwich, now kicking down the slope, took advantage. Davis and Nicol completed the scoring – making it a goal apiece for, the preeminent inside forward trio in the amateur game.

Tennant in goal for the Saints was daring throughout the encounter, and far busier than Coleman, the Hamlet’s international keeper. In the end ‘home’ pressure was too much for the visitors. Centre half Dick Jonas, the captain and one of the most important and influential figures in the history of Dulwich Hamlet Football Club, had an outstanding game – described in one report as “a prince of halves.” Even at one nil down Captain Jonas rallied his troops to reverse the slide and inflict upon St Albans a first defeat in thirteen months.
    Edgar Kail rises above the St Albans defence 

Under the heading: ‘Gallant Losers – St Albans’ flag lowered by Dulwich Hamlet’ one newspaper wrote, “A big slice of the Dulwich Hamlet share of their £354 gate on Saturday will have to go in paying for the breakages caused by some 3,000 spectators rushing the gates and turnstiles just before the start. Saturday’s receipts, plus £222 taken at St Albans, constitutes a record amount for a match in the competition prior to the semi finals.”    

Although the official attendance was a staggering 10,800, it was estimated that over 14,000 actually witnessed the match – more than double the usual gate. The amount of people that gained entry free of charge meant a great loss of revenue to the two clubs. In today’s money we are probably talking in the region of fifteen thousand pounds. Unless, of course the gatecrashers were asked to cough up at the next match and some of the vast sum was later retrieved.

More importantly, it was incredibly fortunate that a major catastrophe did not occur that day. In the years that followed, a scheme was drawn up by the club to improve the match day experience at Champion Hill. Within ten years Dulwich Hamlet had built an immense new stadium with far superior facilities than many clubs in the Football League. A towering edifice, with a capacity of more than 20,000, and still fondly remembered by older Hamlet supporters,

Dulwich went on to reach the semi-final of the Amateur Cup, losing 3-0 to holders Bishop Auckland, at Darlington after a 1-1 draw at Craven Cottage. It was payback time: Dulwich had destroyed the Bishops 5-1 on their way to winning the cup for the first time in 1920. This time the northerners retained the trophy after beating South Bank in the final.

Teams for 18 February 1922
Dulwich Hamlet: E. H. Coleman. A. T. Brooker. G. F. Goodliffe. J. A. Guillard, R. H. Jonas. A. F. Evans. E. J. Gooch. E. Kail, W. J. Davis. S. Nicol. A. E. Hunt.
St. Albans City: W. J. Tennent. F. Holland. T. W. Field, H. Figg. P. Bird. Meagher. P. Pierce,  B. Butcher, W. Minter, H.E. Miller, R. Miller

Original article from HH 26 Winter 2014. Copyright © Jack McInroy    

Monday, 22 December 2014

Arise, Sir Les.

Sir Leslie Bowker KCVO OBE MC

Among the dramatis personae that has graced the Champion Hill stage, surely the most honoured Hamlet character must be the little remembered Leslie Cecil Blackmore Bowker.

Once described as “a vigorous full back of the Corinthian type, using his broad shoulders to knock opponents off the ball.” Leslie Bowker played for Dulwich Hamlet for but a single season, appearing in thirty three matches including some thrilling cup ties. One of those was against the mighty Bishop Auckland, in which Bowker proved he was more than just ‘brute force’ by stepping up and converting a penalty.

He could not have chosen a better time to grace the pink and blue; starring in the 1919/20 ‘Victory’ side, where Dulwich proved to be the best Amateur team, not only in the south, but in the whole country, by winning the Isthmian League, the Surrey Senior Cup, the London Charity Bowl and the FA Amateur Cup. In the final, versus Tufnell Park at Millwall’s The Den, Bowker, playing at left back, drove the ball into the net directly from a freekick. However, after a deal of hand shaking and hearty congratulations the Hamlet players returned to their own half for the restart only to find that the referee had awarded a goal kick. Someone had forgotten to tell poor Les that it was an indirect freekick and no one else had touched the ball on its way into the net!

If Bowker had remained at Champion Hill to see out his career (he was still only 32) he could have become a household name locally, instead he decided to restart his old club West London Old Boys FC, which he was the founder of before the Great War. This was clearly where his first love lay, and he was hoping to rekindle efforts there. It was quite noble if you think about it: shunning one club now commencing on a path that would turn them into, arguably, the greatest amateur club side between the wars, for a lesser outfit that required his much-needed assistance.

Before he left East Dulwich for West London Bowker made sure he was present for the 1920 Dulwich Hamlet club photograph. He is standing to the right of the goalkeepers (see centre page). Around this time, Bowker, who possessed a profound legal knowledge, joined the administrative staff of the London Football Association. Originally elected onto Division 1 of the LFA Council, he was elected onto the Senior Teams Committee the following year. Bowker’s association with the London FA went back to his youth, when in 1906 he played for Division 1 in the inter-Divisional matches. In November 1911 he represented the London team in a senior match against Surrey County.

In those early days, West London Old Boys had the privilege of playing some of their home matches at Craven Cottage, and occasionally the young Leslie turned out for Fulham. He also toured the continent with the English Wanderers, a side composed mainly of internationals, and had the honour of captaining the London League team that defeated the Paris League in France in February 1912. During the First World War, Bowker held the rank of Captain in the London Scottish Regiment, and for his troubles was awarded a Military Cross (MC).

On his return to West London, the Old Boys joined the Athenian League for the 1920/21 season, but things did not work out according to plan and ended rather disappointingly. A wretched season was completed with the team finishing bottom with just one win out of twenty two games. They did not seek re-election the following year. What happened to them after that I’m not entirely sure, but their ‘sketchy’ history shows they had previously finished bottom out of seven in the London League Division 2 in 1911/12. They finished fifth the following year (1912/13) and became champions of Division 2 in 1913/14. They were on the rise, but like so many clubs of that era the war knocked the stuffing out of them and so what might have been never was.

But it was outside the field of play where Leslie Bowker really made his mark, rising to great heights in the game’s governing bodies. Aside from the LFA, he was also involved with the Middlesex FA at top level. At the outbreak of the Second World War he formed the Special War Emergency Committee in the capital with HJ Huband, AT Ralston and other worthies. He eventually became President(s) of the London Football League, the London FA and the London Minor FA. Furthermore, he was made President of the Fulham Football Club in the 1950s and became Vice Chairman and Vice President of the Football Association. Quite some curriculum vitae.

Apart from bringing his wise judgement to the table in countless appeal cases and decades of committee work, it also appears that he was ahead of his time regarding the rules of play: At one FA meeting he voiced his opinion, “that when the ball is passed back by a member of the defending side from outside the penalty area, the goalkeeper shall not be allowed to use his hands. If he does so, the decision is to be an indirect free kick.”

Although Bowker passed away over forty years ago, just recently a number of his most treasured possessions turned up on an online auction house and were up for grabs. Items included invitations and letters addressed to him regarding State funerals, Coronations, Royal weddings and other affairs of State. Also included were an appointment to receive a Knighthood and other honours. (In some instances these were actually signed by British kings and queens!)

I stumbled upon this ‘Royal’ collection on Ebay purely by accident whilst I was searching for something totally unrelated. I saw the name Leslie Bowker and alarm bells began to ring in my memory and the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Was this the Dulwich player of the same name? It was. Within a couple of days I was on the telephone to the seller in Scotland to see if he had obtained any of Bowker’s football related artefacts. Unfortunately for us he had offloaded the box of football memorabilia back in October 2006. The only items that remained were three or four Corporation of London team photographs mounted in a photograph album. The seller, David McFarlane of Ashbank Collectables kindly made copies of the pictures for me. The very nice portrait of LCB Bowker in woollen jersey that adorns the cover of this issue of the Hamlet Historian is one of them.

The entire lot was obtained from an elderly lady (now in her eighties) who, with her husband, cared for Sir Leslie Bowker in his old age and got to know him very well. Sir Leslie remained unmarried and apparently had no family, but he spent his days as a bit of a socialite mingling with the rich and famous. His diaries, I was told, contained a daily record of all the money he spent on entertaining, which included thirty pounds a week on ‘booze’ – and this was the early 1960s!

Over the next few days I began to trawl through my own Dulwich Hamlet paraphernalia and scan internet search engines for tidbits, and make a few enquiries to find out as much as I could about Sir Leslie Bowker. In researching the history of our great club, pleasant surprises are thrown up on every avenue, and doors are opened to reveal fascinating long hidden tales. Hence our little trip through the British royal court of the twentieth century and the corridors of power at Lancaster Gate.

A few biographical notes turned up in the pages of a Dulwich Hamlet matchday programme from 24 Jan 1948: - “Leslie Bowker, OBE, MC (Military Cross) who had the honour of a knighthood conferred upon him recently. Sir Leslie was in our 1919-20 team … He is an honorary member of the club – this also for services rendered both on and off the field … Upon retirement from football he very soon became a barrister and shortly afterwards was appointed the much coveted post of Remembrancer of the City of London, which position he still retains. We take great pride in his advancements, for he is still an esteemed colleague and is ever ready to advise, and help, not only our club, but amateur football generally. He is on the Council of the FA, Chairman of the London League, and is also a member of the Surrey County Cricket Club Committee. A man of many parts – a grand speaker with a pretty wit and a real champion of the ‘lesser lights’ amongst football clubs and withal a good companion, we wish him many years of happiness to carry on the good work.”
In 1925 he was appointed Chief Clerk to the Law Officers of the Crown, and was granted the dignity of an OBE by King George the Fifth in 1928. In 1932 he was promoted to the highest office of Legal Secretary to the Crown, and for the next twenty years (until his retirement) was stationed at the Guildhall performing the role of City Remembrancer for the Corporation of London.
As well as protecting the interests of the City of London in the House of Lords, Bowker also presided over a number of important and illustrious State occasions: such as the proclamation of the King’s Coronation, the proclamation of the Kings Death, and the proclamation of the new Queen: proclamations which required his signature.
The mysterious office of City Remembrancer dated back five centuries and entitled the bearer to ancient privileges, and to engage in and oversee the dozens of customs and ceremonies that are acted out by the Lord Mayor’s office and on State occasions. Indeed, he was the City's Ceremonial Officer and Chief of Protocol. Bowker made the arrangements and ensured that all things were carried out correctly and in order according to custom and tradition. It was his job to ‘bring to remembrance’ these matters.

His Knighthood, for his role as City Remembrancer, was announced in the 1948 New Year’s Honours list. Cue an invitation to Sir Lesley to pop down in an official capacity to Champion Hill. On 29 March 1948 England Amateurs played host to Holland in an International Triangular Tournament at Dulwich. Despite the fact that there were no Hamlet men in the England line-up, among the list of FA dignitaries (that included Stanley Rous and AT Ralston) was the City Remembrancer and recently appointed Knight of the Realm, Sir Leslie Bowker himself. He was, of course, an honorary member of the club anyway; a post he had held since 1925.

1953 saw yet another decoration, this time he was appointed Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in recognition of his “personal services to King George VI and other members of the Royal Family.” This special honour was bestowed upon him by our present Queen in the first year of her monarchy and suggests a genuine closeness with one she could trust.

Since his birth in 1888 Sir Leslie Bowker had seen a succession of kings and queens beginning with Victoria, in whose Order he now was. What a privileged position he found himself in during the middle part of the twentieth century, seeing at first hand the fascinating inner workings of the royal family: the constitutional crisis that revolved around Edward and Mrs Simpson, the legal wranglings and the abdication that followed, never mind the couple’s leanings toward fascism with a trip to Germany to meet Hitler and to visit a concentration camp; the painfully shy George VI with his speech impediment, who was thrust onto the throne and who died of lung cancer in 1952; and the youthful Queen Elizabeth whom he had met many times at royal luncheon, garden party and ball.

Her Majesty’s Coronation took place six months later in June 1953. It turned out to be one of Sir Leslie Bowker’s final official engagements before his retirement at 65. He took his seat in Westminster Abbey amidst scarlet robed royalty, aristocracy, nobility, dignitary, clergy … and the odd television camera. The Coronation was a major television event and was watched by millions. The fact that he was designated ticket number 005 shows how far up the ladder he actually was; quite literally one of the ‘big wigs’ as our picture shows. It would be interesting to find out who the first four tickets were allocated to!

Sir Leslie Bowker died in Brighton, rather fittingly, on St George’s Day, 23 April 1965 aged 77: Knight of the Realm; City Remembrancer; Association Football President; and most important of all Amateur Cup winner with Dulwich Hamlet Football Club.

Rest in peace, Sir Leslie Bowker KCVO OBE MC DHFC.

If you visit the British Pathe website you can download at least two short clips of Sir Leslie Bowker showing both sides of his public life. In his robes and wig at the State Opening of Parliament; and presenting England captain Billy Wright with a silver salver at an FA dinner. No film exists of his playing days.

Acknowledgements: David Fowkes of the London Football Association, David McFarlane of Ashbank-Collectables, Alex White – Historian to Fulham FC.
Sources: eBay listings, various DHFC programmes and handbook notes, Fulham FC Club Handbook 1951-52, Daily Sketch December 2, 1933.

Original article from HH 18 Spring 2007. Copyright © Jack McInroy

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Happy Birthday, Bill.

Today is the 95th birthday of Dulwich Hamlet’s most elderly supporter Bill Kirby who celebrated by making his usual trip to Champion Hill.

The team he has faithfully supported for eighty three years beat Witham Town 1-0 through a tremendous strike by Xavier Vidal, keeping the team third in the table.

Bill, who still lives locally in Herne Hill, first started watching the Hamlet in the early 1930s during the days of the legendary Edgar Kail. He must surely be one of the last remaining people who actually saw King Edgar play (and could he play).

So, our hearty congratulations to Bill on his birthday, and we trust he may have many more.

20 December 2014

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Editorial for the Hamlet Historian No.26

The new issue of the magazine is due out on 20th December 2014 and contains articles by Jan Stover, Mishi D. Morath and the memoirs of the late Johnny Gornall.


In July 2015 Champion Hill will stage the return match between Dulwich Hamlet FC and German club Altona 93. It is quite a rarity for the Hamlet to be taking on foreign opposition in the modern era, so it will be well worth noting the date in your diary when more details appear. And if you were perplexed as to when the original friendly fixture took place and how it was you came to miss it, don’t fret …it was played in Hamburg 89 years ago!

The game will cement further ties between the two clubs, founded in 1893. Already the Dulwich Hamlet away kit is modelled on the Altona home kit. And many will be familiar with the Altona 93 / DHFC banner draped behind the goal.


A dream come true for terrace legend Mishi Morath and his counterpart at Altona, Jan Stover of the All To Nah fanzine. The pair had an amazing chance meeting a few years ago.  Mishi was visiting Hamburg and wandering round the Altona stadium when he was approached by Jan. The two got talking and Mishi came away with some of Jan’s fanzines. He then sent his German friend a copy of every back issue of the Hamlet Historian and some other fanzines, all of which Jan lapped up. It was only later that it was realised that their two clubs had actually played each other in a friendly many years earlier.

Unlike today’s senior team, the DHFC Supporters Team is quite accustomed to touring Europe, having done so many times. So, taking an opportunity to travel to Germany, acquaintance was renewed between the two clubs, and a match between the two sets of fans was played out at Altona’s Adolf Jäger stadium. When it was time for the Hamlet to return the favour towards the end of the 2012/13 season, a coachload of Altona fans visited Edgar Kail Way, Champion Hill and enjoyed a wonderful time of football and frolics. It was a grand occasion.

For this issue of the Hamlet Historian Jan Stover has kindly produced a fine piece about the encounter in 1925, in which the aforementioned club legends Edgar Kail and Adolf Jäger featured. Sadly, Jäger’s life was cut short in 1944, when he was killed attempting to defuse an Allied bomb in Altona while working as a volunteer in a bomb squad. Within weeks of his death the stadium was renamed in his honour.

As we are all so very much aware, 2014 marks the centenary of the First World War. There have been many fitting memorials, including the revamping of the Imperial War Museum in Southwark and the remarkable spectacle of the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. The Club itself also took part in Football Remembers Week, in which footballers from all walks of life, young and old, amateur and professional, were photographed a hundred years on from the Christmas truce of 1914. This is in tribute to the impromptu football match played out between German and Allied troops. That famous lull amidst the carnage was also recently touchingly recreated for Sainsbury’s seasonal advertising campaign.

Before the Second World War Dulwich Hamlet made a number of tours to Germany. The last one was in 1930 when Cologne and Aachen were visited. Earlier trips went back as far as 1911. However, the one that took place in 1914 (Menderich Duisberg, Eberfield, Munich Gladbach) just three and a half months before the start of the First World War is perhaps the most poignant.

It is hard to imagine how opponents who were happily kicking a ball about, attacking each other’s goals on a football pitch would soon be attacking each other with bullets, bombs and bayonets in the trenches of the Western Front.  And, lest we forget, twenty two Hamlet clubmen (four more in WWII) made the supreme sacrifice, as did some men from Altona 93. May our friendship ever continue.

Jack McInroy 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Hamlet Historian 26

If all goes according to plan, a new issue of the Hamlet Historian will be available at the Dulwich Hamlet versus Witham Town match on Saturday 20th December.

The cover features Altona 93 player Adolf Jäger and the cost is £2.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

An all too familiar Cup defeat ...

Please note: This article is from 2007.

By Mishi D. Morath

Thanks to a posting on the unofficial Dulwich Hamlet messageboard on the internet recently, I’m going to wind the clock back thirty five years or so. Why? Well, a chap called David Bauckham, from the website  posed the question:

Does anyone remember Charlie Pooley?

Hi, I am just writing up a few memories of watching Dulwich in the early 1970s (first match a home defeat by Hampton: FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round 1972/73). My recollections are pretty vague but one name I remember quite well is that of Charlie Pooley. Does anyone remember him and if so can they provide any details – I recall that he had long hair & moustache (like most players back then) and played on the wing I think.

In actual fact, although Charlie seems to have made a lasting impression on him, Pooley did not appear in that FA Cup match. So, why the interest?
It turns out David is in the early stages of drafting a book on non-league football, and will include a piece on his earliest amateur experiences at Champion Hill. Not many memories were forthcoming on Charlie, it was a long time ago after all. I, myself, saw my first Hamlet game as a little seven year old boy in 1974. I would have been ten when he left us after we were relegated for the first time at the end of the 1976/77 campaign.

Pooley headed for the Croydon Arena and the ‘Blues’ of Croydon FC who leap-frogged over us from the lower division. Also headed in the same direction was Alec Jackson. Croydon, of course, are now known as the Trams but in the 1970s actual trams in South London were still a long way from returning, with the Tramlink service only becoming fully operational in May 2000.

The website query drew an anecdotal story about a Hamlet away match at Oxford City in the mid seventies when the supporters’ coach got to the White Horse ground, moments after the players’ bus. As the team were disembarking, Fred Pudney – another legend of that era – sat down on the steps and promptly threw up! Supporter Malcolm Meredith recalled another time when he was strolling round to the bar from Champion Hill’s old north terrace after one game, and by the time he got there Charlie was already showered and changed and halfway through his first pint! And Pooley had played the full ninety minutes, and not substituted early.

Back to that FA Cup game in September 1972 though. Having spent the previous decade in the doldrums, regularly competing for the Isthmian League wooden spoon with Corinthian-Casuals, Jimmy Rose took over the reigns; and not so much a breath of fresh air, more of a hurricane of hope, blew through the old, hallowed corridors of Champion Hill. The sleeping giant was finally awakening from its long slumbering, and teams were starting to take the boys in Pink ‘n’ Blue seriously.

With the team that Rose was assembling, there was the possibility of a good FA Cup run, with all the attendant publicity and glory to go with it. Hopes were high, the draw had been kind. Despite having to start in the preliminary round, the Hamlet managed to get past one of those ‘potential banana skins’ drawn away to Athenian Leaguers, Southall. A single goal from Chris Gedney was enough to see the Hamlet through. A close margin, but in cup football that is enough. The goal came just before half time; a corner taken on the right led to a mix-up in the Southall goalmouth and Gedney, who the South London Press referred to as: ‘that “picker up of unconsidered trifles”’, gave the home custodian, Colin Knight, no chance of saving a close range shot.

And so onto the first qualifying round, a home tie with another Athenian League outfit, Hampton. But they were a couple of rungs below Premier Division Southall, plying their trade in the lowly Second Division. Although Hampton finished third in the table at the end of the season, just missing out on the two promotion spots, they should still have been easy pickings for Dulwich. In the press Rose was cautious about the outcome, offering all the correct clichés for his soundbites. “We must beware of overconfidence. Although we’re obviously favourites the cup is a great leveller. Hampton will be playing a different style of football to ours which might be awkward. We’d like a good cup run and I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll go through to meet Molesey or Carshalton away in the next round.” Having said that I very much doubt he thought there was ever a cat in hell’s chance of the Hamlet bowing out to such lowly opposition.

Matters would not have been helped by the serious injuries sustained at work by Dulwich forward Ken Jelly. Tragedy struck for the New Century employed window-cleaner when the cradle in which he was working crashed thirty feet onto the concrete pavement below. At first it was feared that the 24 year old Jelly might have suffered internal injuries but Jimmy Rose was one relieved football manager when he heard that the damage was restricted to his limbs. “At one time we thought there was damage to kidneys and vertebrae but this was not the case. In a way he was lucky. He could have fallen on his head. Of course it’s a tremendous blow just as we were beginning to click. We didn’t play well against Bromley or Southall because everyone was thinking about Kenny. But knowing Jelly as I do I wouldn’t be surprised if he was up and about and ready for training very soon.”  Despite the optimism Rose realised the seriousness of his injuries, and it was expected that Jelly would be in plaster for as long as two months, before he could even think about beginning light training. This was particularly bad luck for the new Hamlet forward. He had been dogged by injury since he left Tooting & Mitcham, and missed much of the previous season – when he was in Sutton United colours – through a broken hand. With all at the Club being so concerned about Jelly, no doubt Dulwich defender Bernie Mills would have felt a little aggrieved at the ‘lack of sympathy’ coming his way. For he too was hospitalised after a work accident, having a toenail removed!

Despite all their bad luck the Hamlet still managed to beat Bromley, in an Isthmian League match, and Southall in the Cup, as mentioned. The ‘warm up’ to the Cup clash was an Isthmian League home game with Oxford City. Honours were even, four goals shared. A cracking game, one of the best for donkey’s years. But whether that is a true verdict on the quality of the match, or merely a reflection of how poor things had been over previous years I can’t tell you. For a match which the Hamlet never won though, the accolades were top notch. ‘DULWICH PROVIDE THE EXCITEMENT’ was the headline in the SLP: “If it’s soccer entertainment you’re after then take a trip to Champion Hill where Dulwich are fast building a reputation as one of amateur soccer’s crowd pleasers. Slick-moving Dulwich might have let a home point slip but it would be an injustice for their fans to begrudge Oxford a share of the spoils from one of the best amateur matches seen in South London for years. Play swung end-to-end with lightning speed, shots flashed in at both goalkeepers from all angles, and breathless supporters rose to applaud the teams off at the end.”

So, despite the players on the sick list, there would have been plenty of confidence in the Hamlet camp for the visit of Hampton. Surely defeat was inconceivable? Although there was no actual non-league pyramid in place then, the Athenian League was acknowledged as one rung below the Isthmian, and Hampton turned out in the third tier of that competition!
But the sorry captions above the SLP report of the tie said it all:

 ‘I knew this was going to happen’ says Rose


By the odd goal in three we lost, and while not having our full FA Cup record to hand, I would hazard a guess that this must be one of our most embarrassing defeats in our entire history of entering the great old competition. We were unbeaten at home thus far, a good month into the season, and the report tells us that the visitors were allowed to score on their only two ventures into Dulwich’s half. “I was very disappointed,” said manager Jimmy Rose, “but I knew this was going to happen because we were lacking in goal scoring effort.” Brave words, so easy to be wise after the event! It was Hampton who took the lead after only eight minutes, before the Hamlet had been given any time to settle down, Peter Farren put his team ahead when Peter Smith failed to cut out a high ball from Ian Wenlock, allowing Farren to run round for an easy chip into goal, over the Dulwich custodian Geoff Parsons.

Despite the setback Dulwich calmed down and took control of the game. Surely this deficit would only be a blip in the Hamlet quest for Cup glory? On the quarter hour mark Chris Gedney ran the length of the field, only to waste a chance with a poor pass to Trevor Bladon. But the continual pressure was to prove too much for Hampton, and in the 32nd minute Hampton goalkeeper Ron Whiteaker let a high ball from Eric Allinson slip through his fingers to put Dulwich level. And we almost went in at the break in front, after good play between Graham Smith and Gedney again, but Whiteaker tipped Gedney’s shot over the bar. Despite only hitting the back of the net once in the half the paper told us that “Dulwich kept up their reputation as crowd-pleasers shooting from all positions.”  

Despite that it was Hampton, who once again, had the earliest chance after the interval. Just two minutes into the second half they missed a chance when Yorke pushed the ball into the area for Peter Hennessey, who chipped the ball over the attacking Parsons and clean over the open goal. A let off indeed. But then it was all Hamlet pressure once more, one of the best was when Allinson floated a free kick high into the area for Micky Pratt to head down, but Ray Major just volleyed wide. It was only in the latter stages of the game that Hampton managed to break away from the relentless pressure of Dulwich. Parsons dropped a simple high cross from Kenny Reed and Ian Wenlock was there to nod it into the net, thus securing an extremely unlikely victory for little Hampton, three divisions below the Hamlet, though nowadays one level above, when if the fixture were to be played we would be the giantkillers!

Dulwich Hamlet team: Parsons, Brookes, Barker, Burke, Allinson, P. Smith, Bladon, G. Smith, Pratt, Gedney, Major. Sub: Gaydon.

Ken Jelly was out of hospital by the time this match took place and was a spectator at the game. He had both wrists in plaster and bandages round his ankles. It would be quite a while before he would be fit enough to wear a Pink and Blue shirt again, but he was quoted as saying that he would go along to training sessions “just for a talk with the lads.” What’s the betting there wasn’t much discussion on this Cup debacle! Out of sight, out of mind!

There were a number of changes for the following home match with Woking, including an untried youngster George Lewzey, who had only turned eighteen a week earlier, and had no senior amateur experience. Fellow teenager Charlie Pooley also appeared. Before the match Jimmy Rose said: “My hand has been forced. I didn’t want to make changes, but the goals just aren’t coming as fast as they want to.”  He was reported to have full confidence in young debutant Lewzey. Many years later a certain Mr. Hansen, who formerly plied his trade at Anfield, before seeking the comfort of a TV studio armchair, was famously quoted as saying “You win nothing with kids.”  in reference to Alex Ferguson bedding his version of ‘Busby Babes’ at Old Trafford.

Well the Hamlet didn’t go on to win the title, but certainly tore apart Woking that night, by four goals to one. And it could have been a lot more as the SLP scribe quoted an enthusiastic Dulwich fan: ‘Two minutes from full-time someone heard the clatter of wooden seats being tipped up as people began to make their way out. The same someone shouted “Don’t go yet lads, they might get another goal.”’  It was actually the subject of the enquiry that prompted this article that got on the scoresheet against the Cards, and not Lewzey. “In the 75th minute Charlie Pooley received a gift pass from the Woking defender Cheeseman, and his curving shot went just wide with keeper Collyer beaten. But five minutes later after neat work by Gaydon and Kenny Baker, Pooley got the ball just inside the box and shot in on the turn.”

A few years ago (three, four, five? Maybe more?) I was at the Private Banks Sportsground (I still can’t call it by its modern name of Powerleague!) on a Sunday morning watching a young Dulwich Hamlet Junior game – playing the small sided version, which is seven a side – so it must have been under eights or nines. I was standing on the touchline wearing my Dulwich Hamlet jacket with the club crest, when a man came up to me and asked if I ever went down to watch the Hamlet. It was none other than Charlie Pooley, whose boy was playing against our little ‘uns! We only had a brief chat, and unfortunately I cannot recall the opposition. But I may just try and make some enquiries with our Junior Club, and the League officials, to find out if anyone out there knows him. And if I am lucky enough to locate him then keep your eyes peeled for a possible interview with this Hamlet seventies icon in a future edition of the Hamlet Historian!

This article was originally published in HH18 Spring 2007

Tuesday, 15 July 2014


by Jack McInroy

or the first five years or so of its existence I was blissfully unaware of a certain publication dedicated to Dulwich Hamlet Football Club. It was called Champion Hill Street Blues. When I eventually did come across it I happily bought one or two issues. It contained ramblings about the club I supported. The only other place of which one could regularly read about the Hamlet was in the matchday programme or a few paragraphs in the South London Press twice a week. After reading the December 1993 Number 24 edition of CHSB fanzine, I wrote to the editor, Mishi Morath, shamelessly pointing out the faults of this ramshackle magazine. Perhaps this was very remiss of me. Well out of order to be honest, but I felt at the time I had some valid points to make.  
Mishi replied to me personally with some valid points of his own, and said that the magazine was governed by its contributors. If I could do any better, then send him some stuff and he would put it in. After all, he had been putting out fanzines since as early as 1984 – the Pink & Blue Bushwacker – when he was just seventeen! And he has never really stopped. Catch the supporters’ coach to an away fixture and read his current offering, the very enjoyable All Aboard The Skylark.
My letter appeared in the following edition of CHSB along with several pages of my own contributions that I put in the post to an address on the Aylesbury Estate, just a few hundred metres from my home.
Part of my original letter read, “…another 60p worth of countless typing errors, spelling misteaks, mindless obscenities and moronic insults. In its present state your magazine must only appeal to a handful of fans. My opinion of CHSB is not a lone one. Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with writing for a small group of friends, but surely it would be better for us all if your readership was enlarged and the bigger section of fans was catered for…. [You also need to] provide the much missed ‘fun’ element that is sadly missing. The cheap laughs that you aim for by prefixing or suffixing that nasty little word “scum” everywhere falls flat on these chucklebuds. …The good points were scattered through Richard Watts’ piece.”  Richard’s masterful, insightful match reports are always worth reading.
          Coming from a graphics background, I felt the standard of artwork alone was atrocious. Looking back now I find it a bit strange to have taken this view. Many years earlier I owned a handful of issues of Sniffin’ Glue, the punk rock fanzine of the 1970s with its DIY poison pen letter type, magic marker headlines and high contrast images. I had since become a bit snobby and thought that CHSB was in dire need of a proper editor.
Although I had been aware of Mishi on the terraces of Champion Hill since he was a young teenager, I did not actually introduce myself to him until January 1994. I then realised that nobody else was going to edit this fanzine. And why should they? It was his. He had conceived it, nurtured it and brought it to maturity. The fact that I looked upon the finished product as a spotty juvenile delinquent rather than a fine young handsome man was neither here nor there.
          Over the next five and a half years I was a regular contributor to the CHSB. My illustrations, obscure jokes, attempted humorous articles, serious historical pieces, spoof love letters from the hapless Member of Parliament for Dulwich to the Dulwich Hamlet chairman, and the odd poem, very rarely, if ever, appeared under my own name. The nom de plumes I chose were borrowed from others. Gravely Roberts for example, is just author Robert Graves back to front and Rufus T Firefly came from a character in a Marx Brothers film.
Although CHSB had always occasionally featured pieces on Hamlet history, articles began to appear more regularly on the history of our once famous club. Mishi, myself, Roger Deason and Andy Tucker, to name but a few, took it upon ourselves to do our own research. Others, like Ralph Hopkins, who saw things first hand all those years ago, wrote about their own experiences. It soon became apparent that there was a real interest in things ancient as well as modern. Mishi next decided he was going to produce something called the Hamlet Historian dedicated to the club’s past exploits. A brilliant idea.
In 1996, my own book on the Hamlet’s Victory Team of 1920 was published. This was a real confidence boost for me, especially as I was in the middle of a long period of unemployment at the time. It is no fun attending countless job interviews and finding no one wants you. Five hundred copies were sold or given away and a large proportion of the profits went towards the Raise The Roof Fund, a scheme to build a covered stand behind one of the goals at Champion Hill. In the end this never got off the ground and the money, much to my own chagrin, was channeled elsewhere.
          Soon afterwards, our friendly neighbourhood programme editor, John Lawrence hurriedly brought out the first part of his own ‘The Story of Dulwich Hamlet in 100 weekly parts.’ An unexpected rival we felt were now up against!

And then things went decidedly pear shaped. Mishi’s ill conceived comments regarding the Turkish earthquake in the penultimate CHSB Editorial didn’t go down too well in some quarters. It was blatantly obvious that some people had a right to be upset. Especially any Turks associated with Dulwich Hamlet Football Club.
Following that notorious issue of CHSB, I was approached by a group of fans who decided that this was the last straw. They were reluctant to write for that fanzine anymore. Would I like to join them in creating a new less shoddy magazine? I accepted the offer but pointed out, however, that I would not want to do anything behind Mishi’s back. Until he was told that a rival to CHSB was hitting the stands (and the terraces) I would continue with him. I seem to remember being assured that he would be spoken to very shortly. Whether he was or not, I don’t know. I very rarely frequented the bar or engaged in terrace talk, so most of the time I didn’t know what was going on. No change there then.
With hindsight I feel I may have been slightly misled. I certainly don’t recall doing anything dishonest or underhand. My memory is that Mishi wasn’t happy about the exodus of his ‘staff writers’ all jumping ship at the same time. But I was under the impression that Richard would take over the new editorial role while Mishi would become a contributor to the new magazine. His main concern could then be the Hamlet Historian, something perhaps more suitable and certainly closer to his heart.
          I committed myself to provide four pages per issue to a new magazine, Thinkin’ Pink n’ Talkin’ Blues. It was my usual fayre, the same old ‘same old’ that went into Champion Hill Street Blues.
          The final CHSB was produced, and was quickly followed by the first appearance of Thinkin’ Pink n’ Talkin’ Blues in October 1999. By then the country was in the middle of the internet revolution and some wondered if this would spell the end of the printed fanzine. It didn’t – fanzines just went online instead, with everything else. Adam Shahin’s Dulwich Hamlet Online site (which had already been in existence some time) meant that topics could be raised and discussed instantly, instead of weeks after the event, as in the case of a printed fanzine. And without a paste-up line in sight.
          Mishi Morath, king of the paste-up line, may have been down but he was not out, and was set to make a comeback. Pink & Booze – the two loves of his life – was the title of his new offering. He was going to show them, the insurrection, that he could go it alone. He did have one or two faithful men who provided him with a few odds and ends – most notably Paul Griffin. But even Griff, it became clear, was saving his own sterling efforts for his excellent hyperbolic Southwark News match reports. Reports and news items, which in turn, were repeated on what was quickly becoming a more and more slick website.
          But now there were two Dulwich fanzines to collect and read – your poor man’s Snooze and SLoP I suppose. Like the Beatles and the Stones alternating their singles and LPs in the sixties, Richard and Mishi came to a gentlemen’s agreement that they would not publish in the same week. And they never did. The first four issues of TP&TB had a mighty 40 pages each. A tall order, I think, to keep up. The fifth and final issue (dated October 2000) was 12 pages short of the mark, but there was plenty there. 28 pages is ample for a fanzine. In that issue Richard stated that he needed more input from others, else the venture would fold. P&B on the other hand soon became little more than a ‘Do they mean us?’ fest.
Both Pink n’ Booze and TP&TB eventually disappeared out of sight. I always enjoyed reading Mishi’s opinions (and still do). The swearing and the blasphemy I abhor, and the gutter humour and tabloid style revelations I was never too keen on either; yet I was continually amazed that he talked a lot of sense a lot of the time – despite his sometimes drunken editorial vomit, and a seeming headlong rush towards an early grave through his spiraling alcoholism. Someone needed to, as Gary Lineker once mouthed, “Have a word with him.”
          Thankfully Mishi eventually saw his alcohol addiction for what it was and managed to quit drink altogether. For over a decade now the club’s most renowned supporter has been ‘dry’. Long may it continue. He remained editor of the Hamlet Historian until he handed me the reins in 2003. His regular offerings and encouragement helped me take on the new role with a fresh zeal. Collecting first hand accounts from old players and supporters, and digging up buried treasures from a glorious past has, we trust, brought the Hamlet’s history alive to our own generation.
I have a lot to thank Mishi for. Had he not asked me to send some articles in to CHSB I would never have gone on to churn out countless send up pieces that people seemed to enjoy reading, or go on to do so much research. That in turn led to writing a small book about the club. And then going to great lengths to ensure Edgar Kail received a Southwark People’s blue plaque, as well as commissioning a fitting bronze monument to Pa Wilson the father of Dulwich Hamlet. So I have him to thank for that. But this is beginning to sound more and more like an obituary to Mishi D. Morath. And that’s the last thing he’d want. 

Jack McInroy This article was published in HH25 Spring 2014 

Slightly adapted from a previously unpublished piece written in 2001.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Days of '49

This evening I attended the Nigeria v Scotland match at Craven Cottage, a warm up game for the African side before they head off to the World Cup Finals in Brazil. Fittingly, I had a ticket for Row H Seat H.

The game took place amidst match fixing allegations that were being investigated by the National Crime Agency. One of Scotland's disallowed goals looked well dodgy despite a foul in the melee, the keeper seemingly throwing the ball into his own net.

The 2-2 result was pretty fair I thought, with Gordon Strachan's tartan army conceding an equaliser just before the end. They did have another goal disallowed earlier which would have put them 3-1 ahead but it was ruled out for offside. Humourously, the referee's assistant's decision was greeted with a chorus of, "The linesman's got a bet on. The linesman's got a bet on."

But it was the matchday programme that we were exceptionally pleased about. Our Hamlet Historian article about the Nigerian team's very first visit to these shores in 1949 was nicely reproduced over three pages.

The full article can be found here.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Action from 1963


In 1963 the Football Association celebrated its centenary. A film was made called 'Home and Away' of the history and spreading of our national game across the world and the influence of the FA.

Part of the film looks at the amateur game, and it is from 7 minutes in that we find some interesting clips taken at Champion Hill. Action on the field is followed by brief scenes on the terraces and in the bar. One of the gentlemen seen is Eddie Rengger, for a number of years the Dulwich Hamlet Secretary. In his younger days Rengger had featured for the club in the victorious 1920 Amateur Cup Final.

Other scenes in the movie may also involve Hamlet players.

Eddie Rengger

Thanks to Paul Griffin for the link.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The first game of my life… by Mishi D. Morath

Mishi D. Morath takes us back to the year of his birth and a search through the archives to find that very first Hamlet win of his life. 

The first game of my life… 
by Mishi D. Morath

One question I am often asked, as a long-standing Hamlet fan, of forty years now, is ‘Why do you hate Tooting so much?’ To which I have no real answer. They are our local rivals, and I can respond in the only way that is honest…”I don’t know, I was just brought up to hate them as a kid!”
For this edition our esteemed editor asked me to knock up and article or two, which I always say I will, but put on the proverbial ‘back burner’.  I have an idea, but am a lazy sod at heart. He wanted ‘around eight pages’, so I had few thoughts for one or two page ‘space-fillers’. I saw my first Hamlet game at the tender age of seven, after my older brother Ferenc finally gave in to my nagging to take me to a game. We grew up on the Champion Hill Estate behind the ground. From our balcony you could watch the players training, on the old Top Pitch. So I thought to myself, rather than ‘my first match’ which I have covered before, I wondered what the first Hamlet game of my life was?
I was born on Monday October 24th 1966, north of the river, but destined to move south of the Thames when I was about four. It must have been then because the only primary school I went to was St. Anthony’s, up at Dulwich Plough.  Not any old part of South London, but as fate would have it, Champion Hill itself. I wasn’t supposed to be born then, in fact I was a complete surprise. I am the youngest of four, and not planned. I was a ‘stomach ache’ and born three months premature, weighing in at 2lbs 4 oz; a little more than a bag of sugar & was given the last rites on the day I came into this earth. From vague memory, I think I was told that I wasn’t even brought home until January the following year.
So how simple would it be for me to check what the first Hamlet game of my life was? Well that was the easy part …unfortunately I decided to carry on ‘a game or two’ to include the first Dulwich win of my life too. What I never factored in was that the 1966/67 season was the worst in the entire history of Dulwich Hamlet, when we came rock bottom of the Isthmian League, and unbeknown to me we were not to win another match that season, after I was born! So this has ended up more of a ‘War & Peace’ style article rather than a two page spread in ’Hello!’ magazine!
It is strange how, without having checked results, Tooting can annoy me, even before I had my first breath. For just two days before my birth, on the 22nd October, we lost 4-1 at their old Sandy Lane. Throughout this piece there will be lots of quoting from the archives of the ‘South London Press’, and these will all be in italics. It was a portent of things to come when I read ‘Tooting had this Isthmian League result safely sewn up by half-time’ The headline mentioned their new right-winger Michael Andrews, but was not so complimentary of one of our men: ‘Alas the same cannot be said for Hamlet’s newcomer Barry Hopkins, who was a little overawed by the firepower of the home attack.’ Nevertheless the 19-year-old from Windsor & Eton recovered sufficiently to keep his goal intact in the second half.  It was after the interval that we ‘showed a little more fight’, with Mike Woollard the pick of our defence.  He ‘suddenly found time to venture upfield’ where he set up Ron Parnell, but his attempt went into the side-netting.  We did close the gap with a shot from Eddie Harris that ‘flashed into the net well out of Guy’s reach.’ That’s the same Dickie Guy who moved on to Southern Leaguers Wimbledon, and saved a Peter Lorimer penalty against the then at the peak of their powers Leeds United in an FA Cup tie at Elland Road the following decade. So there you have it, subconsciously such a terrible defeat caused my mum, who neither knew she was pregnant, nor heard of Dulwich Hamlet, to go into labour as a result!
So that was a close escape. The first game of my life was actually when I was in intensive care, oblivious to the world in my incubator, and it was at what was to become my ‘second home’, Champion Hill. Sadly, another heavy defeat, as we crashed at home to Ilford 3-0. This was in a long since defunct competition called the London Charity Cup.  Ilford triumphed due to ‘their ability to overcome the heavy conditions…consistent use of long ball tactics that reaped dividends….Little fault could be found with an overworked Hamlet defence with Mike Woollard working tirelessly but their attack still leaves much to be desired.’.
Just for the record the team against Ilford, for the first game of my life was as follows: Hopkins, Woollard, Hammond, King, Cassell, Smith, Abbott, Modesto, Cane, Walker & Mears. And so these two matches set the tone for the rest of my research, with me naively deciding to continue ‘a few more games’ until the first win of my life…oh dear!
And so began my long, seemingly elusive search for that first victory. A one nil loss at home to Ilford, this time in the Isthmian League, followed, and then a trip to Oxford City. Ray Willis would be making only his second appearance for the club, he was formerly with Middlesex League outfit Ditton. Terry Seeds retuned, after three weeks out with an ankle injury. But we lost five one, described as ‘jaded and ragged chasing this match at the White Horse ground….in character with a team already fighting again to escape the re-election zone.’ There were also problems off the pitch as the headline read: ‘Dulwich hit by four quitting’; three of whom had played in the first team earlier in the season, namely Dave Clark, John Mears and Colin Phillips. The fourth, Ray Ranson, was a reserve & ‘A’ team player. Committee member Cecil Murray said: “They’ve gone because neither of them were able to keep a first team place. Centre-back Clark was the only full Hamlet member, the committee elected him last season. But Clark has recently married and now lives in Chingford. He told the club he was tired of getting home late at night following the journey after training sessions.” Inside-forward Mears went back to his former club, Cray Wanderers. Half-back Phillips joined Maidstone United; while full-back Ranson, who left Bromley because he was unable to hold down a first team place, returned to Hayes Lane, where his father Tom was manager.
Another Champion Hill defeat, with the ‘old enemy’ from Tooting winning two nil in the return game, so the first of many defeats against them in my lifetime, even though this century we have more than held the upper hand! We ‘crashed to a losing double’ which ‘could have been worse if Tooting had not squandered 4 made-to-measure chances.’
The next match was against Wembley, in the London Senior Cup. The previous time we had met each other was a decade previous, where we led two at half time, before they knocked us out 4-2.  The pre-match optimism told us that ‘Hamlet hope for better fortune when they again visit Wembley’…but it was not to be.  I wonder how many Hamlet fans suffered over at Vale Farm, with the attraction of the England versus Netherlands amateur international being staged at Champion Hill? It was a future Hamlet player, who joined us when Jimmy Rose became manager in the early Seventies, who was responsible for our downfall, as the headline told us:  ‘Hamlet hammered by live-wire Pudney’. A one nil defeat- ‘A magnificent goal by ex-Hendon star Fred Pudney gave the Athenian League side a shock, but deserved victory’.  Such was our poor showing that we only ‘troubled (their) keeper for the first time just before half-time, Terry Pearton with a snap-shot from long range. Wembley’s diligent defence always proved just too good for a moderate Dulwich forward line.’ Pudney was clearly the best player on the pitch, by a long chalk, and it got to our players. His ‘persistent worrying the Dulwich defence caused tempers to rise and after a clash with Frank Abbott both were cautioned.  And then Pudney struck. Taking up the running on the right-wing, he moved inside with the ball and from an acute angle let fly with a fierce shot from 25-yards which left Ray Willis helpless in the 71st minute’. One would assume that in the modern era when yellow cards are handed out like confetti, both players would certainly be red-carded.
The next match was in a competition long forgotten to all but the most ardent statto-type of a Hamlet fan. But this match was extremely unusual, as it was the second leg of a South of The Thames Cup tie against Bromley, and the first leg was from two seasons before!  The headline said it all: ‘Second leg-19 months later!’  Before we even kicked off we were two goals for the worse, as way back on April 26th 1965 we had been beaten three one. That was a game where John King broke his leg, forcing a long lay-off, but he was fit for the return! No mean feat…if you didn’t know the dates of the two ties! The ‘excuse’ given for the long delays was ‘inclement weather forced a heavy backlog of fixtures last season and neither club could find the time to complete the match’. After a huge delay we were hammered 7-2, thus going down 10-3 on aggregate.  To be fair, if you are looking for an ‘excuse’ we had one, as our keeper went off injured. But the report never saw it that way: ‘Oh Dulwich! Even though you lost goalkeeper Ray Willis early in the second half this was such a disappointing display.’ We were already four down when a kick to his head forced us to put Tony Dew between the posts, but out of the seven conceded ‘four of the Bromley goals were handed to them on a plate.’ Ours were two in the last ten minutes, from substitute Albert Modesto, and Danish debutant Jan Kilderman, from a free-kick. It was also reported midfielder Frank Abbott had resigned from the club.
We then lost by the odd goal in five, away to Hitchin Town, where we ‘fought back pluckily after being three goals in arrears’ and only a combination of ‘bad luck and bad shooting prevented earning a much needed point’.  The result meant we swapped places with Hitchin, who had been the only side below us in the table.
A midweek defeat came next, at Sutton United, this time 3-1, but it was closer than the scoreline suggested as the heading told us: ‘Hamlet crack in the last 10 minutes’; with our ‘marked defending’ nearly taking an unexpected point from the title contenders. ‘Hamlet crowded their goal so successfully the result was still in the balance until the last ten minutes’. Sutton’s 38th minute opener was cancelled out five minutes after the break when Ron Cane sent in a corner which was headed in by Jan Kilderman.
But on the Saturday, despite that plucky loss, it was business as usual, as we were knocked out of the Surrey Senior Cup, three nil at home to Leatherhead. ‘Lamentable Dulwich crash again’ was the headline. The report commenced ‘Down-in-the-dumps Dulwich made an early exit when they gave another lamentable display…This was a game that Dulwich would have taken in their stride. Not so nowadays.’ Cutting comments indeed, from the local press. A vein that was, sadly to continue all season.
At the start of the season we had appointed our first ever paid coach, or in modern parlance, manager.  His name was Frank Reed, and although this article was clearly ‘spin’ from him, before ‘spin’ was invented, it’s interesting to look back at… “I’m not going to quit – says Reed”. The Hamlet were given a ‘verbal shot-in-the-arm’ from him when he stated he ‘would like his contract renewed when it expires later this season’.  The paper went on:  ‘The reason for coach Reed’s one-man-morale-booster is to quash ugly rumours that have flowed again, following the resignation of another Dulwich player – Eddie Harris, this week.’ Reed, the 33-year-old former ex-Charlton Athletic goalkeeper said: “I’ve been to many clubs during my years in football, but Dulwich Hamlet is the best I’ve ever been associated with. And as for any internal trouble, well that’s ridiculous. No matter what your club is you’ll always get unsettled players, who naturally move on if things are not going their way. Admittedly we have had our fair share at Dulwich, but don’t forget there are players applying to join us each week who don’t get any mention.” He said that the recent muddy grounds was one of the reasons for our spate of defeats- “Our present team are on the small side and believe in ball playing more than physical contact, and this, I believe, is why we have been struggling”, he explained. “Just wait until the hard grounds, we’ll come again.” Reed had taken over as our first paid coach in July, and believed we had the nucleus of a half-decent side: “All I need are one or two experienced players to harness the obvious skill we undoubtedly have, and then I honestly believe that Dulwich will be where it belongs – at the top.” Before joining Dulwich, Reed had been at Erith & Belvedere, & he was reportedly on a six month contract, that was due to expire at Christmas.  This report was from early December.  The paper went on to say that Sunderland-born Reed had openly expressed to the Dulwich committee that he would like to continue as coach-if they wanted him.  He also said: “My stay at Dulwich has not only been a challenge, but it has been very enjoyable, and although naturally I would not like to say much about it at the present moment, I would definitely like to carry on.” The piece finished by informing us that ‘under Reed’s guidance, Dulwich enjoyed one of their most successful starts to the season for many years, but now sit humbly at the bottom of the table.’
The next game against Bromley was rained off, but when it was played the following week it was a case of ‘same old, same old’, despite Reed’s positive talk. But the headline was, sort of, optimistic, despite the three nil defeat at Hayes Lane: ‘Hamlet hit by late burst’; with three Bromley goals in the last seven minutes sending us to defeat.  Our first seasonal game was at home to our ground-sharing tenants Corinthian Casuals, and there were changes before the game, with the heading: ‘Goalkeeper Willis axed – Hamlet call on Edwards’. Willis was dropped for reserve team custodian Tony Edwards, who had ‘impressed recently with some good displays’.  And up front there was also a change, as the Danish student Jan Kilderman was returning home for the Christmas period, the reserve striker Harry Richardson being his replacement. But the change of custodian between the sticks made no difference as we lost two nil: ‘Casuals hold out to win thriller’, which suggested a rare decent match to watch, confirmed by the opening lines: ‘Easily the best game at Champion Hill this season. That was the universal opinion about this rip-roaring game on Christmas Eve.’ Heavy rain almost led to a postponement, but after late inspections of the ‘waterlogged surface’ the referee gave the go ahead.  End to end stuff by all accounts. ‘What a battle it proved to be with first one side then the other gaining the upper hand, with the eventual result hanging in the balance until Casuals snatched their second goal twenty minutes from the end’.
With the chopping and changing of playing personnel, there was bad news in the papers with the heading: ‘Merritt out for season’. We were told that the club stalwart Reg Merritt was unlikely to play again this season because of a chest injury…after a specialist informed him it would be dangerous for him to continue playing. The 37-year-old, a former Surrey & London FA representative player, was injured in Dulwich’s game at Hendon, on October 8th, when he was taken to hospital, but allowed home before the end of the match. Severe bruising of the ribs was diagnosed, but since then consistent pain had forced him to seek further medical advice.  Merritt, who lived in Farnborough, in Kent, had been with the club 16 years, and was the skipper for six of them. At his own request, at the start of this season he asked that a younger player take over the role.
Our Dane finished his break – ‘Kilderman’s vacation return aids Hamlet’ the paper telling us he was back from his eight day spell in Denmark, and would be ‘plunged straight back in at home to Oxford City’, a snippet also informing us that ‘his English is restricted to just a few words’. I bet he wished he was still in Scandinavia, as it was more poor headlines: ‘Biggest defeat of season for Hamlet’.  We lost six one at home, the report stating: ‘The New Year brought no change in the fortunes of Dulwich Hamlet’.  One goal more than our earlier 5-1 loss up there, we ‘handed Oxford three soft goals’. It was our Dane who got a good mention: Jan Kilderman, curiously starved by Dulwich throughout the first half, got off the mark well immediately after the interval, and grazed the bar with a swerving shot.’  But our goal came from Harry Richardson, who netted with a ‘glorious header’ from a Terry Lyons corner.
After that match manager Peter Reed was against pleading his case in the press: ‘Reed wants to stay until end of the season’. We were told that ‘the future of Dulwich Hamlet’s first paid coach hangs in the balance until the struggling club hold their annual meeting next month’. The report went on: ‘Reed shocked the club last Saturday with the news that he will not be able to continue as their coach after this season, because of business commitments.’ He told the paper: “I’ve just taken a new post as a sports organiser with a London bank, and although I’ve tried to work round it, I just will not be able to spare the time to coach Dulwich. I would love to continue at Dulwich until the end of the season, but the final decision rests with the club. Until I hear to the contrary I intend to carry on and do my utmost for the club. My days at Dulwich have been the best in my footballing life, and if they do terminate my contract then I should always like to be connected with the club in some way.’ A spokesman for the club said that Reed’s resignation, and his offer to complete the season have been accepted, but he added nothing more will be decided until the Annual Meeting in February.
The next match was a break from league football, an FA Amateur Cup tie away to Grays Athletic, the last time we had met in this competition was way back in 1946/47, when we drew 3-3, losing the replay one nil.  History was to repeat itself, just different scorelines. The first match was drawn: ‘Penalty-saver from Kilderman’.  Netted in the closing stages, it gave The Hamlet a ‘lucky reprieve’, the spot kick from Jan Kilderman coming in the 80th minute, when we were losing two one, after: Dick Clarke slipped past the full-back but as he went round centre-half Stockley the home skipper brought him down just inside the area.’ The first half had been goalless, Grays going ahead on 51 minutes. Seven minutes later we hit back with an ‘untidy goal’ from Terry Lyons. ‘Grays failed to clear a high cross from Sumpter and Lyons shot to fire home through a ruck of players.’ The joy was short lived though, as Grays restored their lead within thirty seconds and no Dulwich player touching the ball. We were told that ‘Grays were the better all-round side and unlucky not to win. Two goals disallowed and twice Peter Smith headed off the line’. 
There was more player news, when we read about our third Scandinavian player of the season: ‘Hagen in Hamlet’s reserves’. And from a third country: ‘Norwegian international Erik Hagen makes his debut for Dulwich Hamlet in their reserve side on the Top Pitch tomorrow at 2:30. The 25-year-old had his first training session with the club last night and plays against Woking reserves. Dulwich would have liked to plunge him straight into the first team, but league rules state any player joining a new club must have at least one outing in the reserves before a senior outing. A native of Oslo, Hagen has been capped eleven times for Norway, a versatile right-back for first division club Friwg-whose ground is called Bislet, equivalent to the White City Stadium in London. Hagen is in Britain until March to further his studies in chartered shipping.’ The reserve match was drawn one apiece, but not such a good result in the Amateur Cup on the main pitch: ‘Hamlet slump out of Cup’.  The beginning of the report said it all as we lost two nil in very wet conditions: ‘Goodbye Dulwich, you’re out of the Amateur Cup. Without a win in three months they paddled out of this first round replay. Paddle they definitely did. Referee Burns spent 45 minutes deciding to play or postpone. Puddles turned into clogging mud and that alone was enough to snuff out the lightweight Hamlet attack. They made the fatal mistake of attempting to play through ploughing down the muddy middle. Grays didn’t and for that alone they deserved their victory. Tactically they were always a step ahead of their Isthmian League opponents.’
After his reserve appearance our latest overseas player was in the frame: ‘Dulwich call up new recruit Hagen’.  Our Norwegian international Erik Hagen stepped into the first team for his debut away to Maidstone United. He was replacing the ‘off form’ Bob Meadows, and would ‘play a deep lying link-man role’.  Of his single reserve team appearance we were informed that: ‘Although he tired towards the end and then limped off with a bruised tendon in the dying minutes, Hagen showed that with a little more training he can be a great asset.’ But he could do nothing about the result, as we went down 6-1, not helped by an injury: ‘Luckless Hamlet see Woollard injured’.  And the Stones were at the top of their game too- ‘Struggling Dulwich Hamlet were unfortunate to find Maidstone in their most convincing form of the season. The Kent side have been in trouble themselves for most of the season, and had not won a game for months. But they made the most of their all-round superiority to leave Dulwich a completely wretched side long before the end.’ Mike Woollard went off injured after 35 minutes, after a collision, when we were only one down. After he had left the field we suffered a double blow in a minute. First they scored with a penalty when Barry Bryan handled on the line and then Erik Hagen turned a seemingly harmless cross into our own net.
As if the football wasn’t bad enough, the pitch at Champion Hill was just as awful. And this was highlighted by the local press: ‘Pitch problem top of the agenda’.  You have to remember that unlike the game today matches were not called off at the drop of the hat when there is a puddle of rain, or ice and snow. Unless the conditions were really horrendous the game went on. But …‘Champion Hill came under more criticism when the Casuals v Tooting and Mitcham fixture was cancelled because of a waterlogged pitch. This is the third time this season the ground has been unplayable. And Hamlet officials are getting worried. Last year a “considerable amount of money” was spent on having the playing surface raised four inches so that additional clinker could be laid in an effort to help drainage. Bingley’s, the famous turf researchers, suggested this method to Dulwich but it failed to solve the problem. The Dulwich committee have been in touch with the company for another assessment of the situation. The trouble seems to stem from a thick layer of clay that lays just beneath the pitch which allows the drainage to soak up the rain, but does not let it disperse. The only way around this is to dig the clay away, but this would prove very costly. The Dulwich committee are anxious for a solution as no game means no gate, and no gate means no money.’
Continuing with more ‘off-field’ activity came the news that: ‘Dulwich to advertise for new paid coach’.  We were informed that ‘Dulwich will advertise immediately in top soccer magazines’ after gaffer Peter Reed had said he was moving on, and that ‘Reed has pencilled in a couple of names to replace him, and will arrange for them to meet the Dulwich committee shortly.’ After enjoying a good early start, the season got worse, as you have seen through this article! We are informed that: ‘Unfortunately Reed’s methods –he believes more in the skill side of soccer than the mad dash and crunch – have become bogged down in muddy pitches’. Which brings us back to the Champion Hill surface:  ‘Nature is the only thing left in their other problem child – the pitch. “Everything that has been within our financial limit has been tried in an effort to stop the playing surface becoming waterlogged at this time of season”, explained Dulwich official Cecil Murray. “We have bought a new spiker and 50 tons of sand to try and disperse the water that forms on the pitch at this time of year, but these methods are giving us only a brief respite. It would cost far too much to have the playing surface dug up again like last year, so our biggest ally now is nature. Immediately after a new playing surface was laid it was time for the new season to begin, so the new grass did not have enough time to root. It normally takes a few seasons anyway for new grass to settle, so we will just have to wait and hope.” he added. The piece went on: ‘The notorious heavy playing surface has been causing headaches to the Dulwich committee since the late fifties water just flowed off the playing surface and regularly flooded the tea and groundsman’s rooms.  After consulting a top ground company a couple of seasons ago …work was completed during the close season last year at a cost of £2,500. The pitch problem seemed solved until the heavy rain and snow over the Christmas period again flooded the pitch’. The club have been told that ‘nothing, apart from a massive overhaul of the playing surface could be done until the grass has been given a chance to root and sit firm’.
Still on ‘off-the pitch’ matters, came the heading ‘South London Boys banned’.  Nothing to do with over-exuberant lads on matchdays! For many, many years, especially in the great pre-War era, The Hamlet had an almost exclusive monopoly on the young talent passing through the representative side of South London Schools. Many of their matches were played at our home, both on the main ground and the Top Pitch. But not any longer: ‘Dulwich Hamlet have severed a 75-year association with South London Boys.  “From the end of this season the boys will no longer play at Champion Hill”, said Hamlet official Cecil Murray. Boys from the South London teams have not been graduating to Dulwich in recent years, and now that Corinthian Casuals also use the ground we have been forced to take this decision. It is very much regretted.” Arthur Barnes, the secretary of the Boys side responded: “I have yet to be informed officially, but if we had played more often at Dulwich I am sure the boys would have been far more Dulwich minded”.
Now for some more Isthmian football! ‘Three-goal burst rattles Dulwich’, we were told, after losing 4-1 away to Ilford.  It was always going to be a struggle as ‘Defence-conscious Hamlet were shattered by a three goal burst in a ten minute spell early in the first half at Newbury Park.’  Not that we gave up.  John Hammond and Erik Hagen tried throughout the game to spark some method into the visitors attack, but they fell too early into the offside trap or were repelled by the well-marshalled defence’.  Four down at the time, we pulled one back just before the hour mark, Ron Parnell heading in from a Jan Kilderman  cross. Shortly afterwards Vic Welch hit the post but ‘that was the last time the home goal was in danger’.
A break from league action, maybe we could re-group, under no pressure for points, in a friendly away to Hounslow Town. But it was more of the same as we: ‘seldom appeared likely to win this friendly, and in fact, must have felt grateful to confine Hounslow’s winning margin to 4-2’.  It must have been pretty dire for the Hamlet fans, who no doubt, had a miserable journey home on the 37 bus, as ‘play never reached a high standard’.
Back in league action, at home to Sutton United with ‘Isthmian defeat No. 23 for Hamlet’, after we conceded four for no reply, where we ‘put up little more than token resistance.’ Back on our travels, over to east London in midweek, where we lost to Leytonstone, another first half bashing: ‘Dulwich beaten in first half-hour’.  Going down 3-1, they appeared to drop to our level! ‘By the time Leytonstone had scored their third goal the Dulwich defence had virtually disintegrated. Their frequent wild and desperate “clearances” certainly worried Ray Rispoli’ (in our goal).  We were ‘quite unable to cope’ and the scribe suggested that we were heading for our biggest defeat of the season, but… ‘Then for no apparent reason Leytonstone collapsed and just as they had found the game easy they suddenly found it difficult to do anything right! The remainder of the game was a dour struggle between two unimaginative teams, with both sides reluctant to venture goalwards.’  But we did score, to ‘win’ the second half at least:  ‘Dulwich’s consolation goal came from Terry Lyons, having a miserable match, when his hard, low shot left Mackie floundering in the mud. The goal brought renewed zeal into Dulwich’s play, but effort alone can’t win matches’.
There was another friendly on the Saturday, away to New Romney, the match preceded by a report with a French headline about our Norwegian! ‘Au revoir says Hamlet’s Hagen’; for Erik Hagen was returning to his native Oslo the following week, as the Norwegian football season was starting at the beginning of April, and he had been told by his club Friwg to report back for training.  He had played six senior games for us, New Romney being the seventh. Official Tommy Jover told the press: “Naturally we knew all along that Erik would have to return home in March, but it’s a great pity”
The New Romney match, against such lowly opposition would, I was certain, ‘break my duck’, in terms of the point of this article. How I swore when I read we only managed a one all draw! ‘Thorne nets both goals’. We were ‘well on top for the greater portion of the first half and should have established a winning lead by the interval. Prominent in many moves was Erik Hagen, and he was undoubtedly the game’s outstanding player.’ We took the lead with 15 minutes to go, when Vernon Thorne ventured up front and scored with a header. But a mere five minutes later he was the villain- ‘… a bad misunderstanding between goalkeeper Mike Edwards and Thorne saw him divert the ball into his own net’.
So my search for that so far elusive ‘first win of my life’ goes on.  We then lost three nil at home to Walthamstow Avenue. But the next game must have almost been the cue for fans dancing around Goose Green on their return home, but not quite, as: ‘‘Hamlet’s first point in five months’ was earned away to Clapton. It appears to have been dire: ‘A goalless draw was an obvious and fitting result to this fumbling, wind-swept fiasco of a basement bore at the Spotted Dog’. Only Hamlet coach Frank Reed seemed to derive any pleasure from this negative struggle. He cheerfully said afterwards “Of course we are satisfied.’ Who was he trying to kid? ‘This was a very welcome point, and it’s our first since October.”
Almost that tantalising first win! Next, going down by the odd goal in five to Hendon, well if you read on, Hendon ‘reserves’ really, which puts a bit more perspective on it.  The heading told us: ‘Dulwich collapse in last minutes’ after we were a goal ahead with five minutes left to play! We looked to be heading for only our fourth league win of the campaign but ‘FA Amateur Cup semi-finalists Hendon, fielding nine reserves, had other ideas, and in those last five minutes scored both the equaliser and the winner with shots from way outside the penalty area’. Then came mention of YET ANOTHER overseas name, when we were informed: ‘Dulwich got away to a flying start when Sigurter Jacobssen, in his opening first team outing of the season, gave them a ninth minute lead.’ Hendon equalised, a tad controversially on 25 minutes, as the linesman’s flag was up, but ‘despite Dulwich protests the referee signalled a goal’. Four minutes after that we took the lead ‘a fine through ball from skipper Mike Woollard put Jan Kilderman through and he made no mistake with his neat lob-shot’.
After being so close, normal service was resumed. ‘26th defeat for Hamlet’, a five two reversal at home to Kingstonian, where we ‘dismally slumped’, despite taking the lead through a ‘glorious’ 25-yard free-kick struck by Jan Kilderman‘Hamlet’s limitations were cruelly exposed by the physically big K’s side’, our lead lasting a mere six minutes, before they equalised.
On Easter Monday, despite it being only a friendly match, comes what reads to me as a prime example of what an embarrassment our once proud club had become at this time. We were at home to Athenian Leaguers Finchley, losing six nil, with the headline telling you all you need to know: ‘Player shortage sinks embarrassing Hamlet’. Coach Peter Reed tried to explain: “What can you expect when only 11 players out of 52 are available”. The report continued- ‘Reed was not offering excuses either. Injuries galore, and a large number of players touring with their Sunday clubs forced Hamlet to field six inexperienced third-team teenagers. Two of them, promising Vic Wren and second half replacement Norman White, pitched in when they had merely turned up to watch, while late telephone calls summoned together the rest of Dulwich’s men.’
For your comparison, the team against Kingstonian, in the League on Easter Saturday, was: Edwards, Barnes, Homewood, Hammond, Hills, Seeds, Modesto, (White, N.) Woollard, Wise, Kilderman, Parnell. Whilst the team that ‘competed’ against Finchley was: McKenzie, Hammond, Homewood, Hanifam, (White, N.) Gaydon, Barnes, Wren, Woollard, Seeds, (Parnell) White,B., Davenport.
The next game saw more juggling of the team, this time up front, as ‘Pearton gets Hamlet recall’. Forward Terry Pearton would play his first senior game since Christmas, at home to Wycombe. Up until then he was a regular, until a ‘spate of poor performances’. But now ‘He’s back, and comes in to displace Bermondsey docker Ron Parnell as leader of a sagging forward line.  Icelandic international Sigurter Jacobsson had recovered from a knock that kept him out of the last two games, and was due to return at left-back.’  But the changes were to no avail, as we slipped to a 3-0 loss, but at least gave it a go: ‘Fiery Dulwich chisel out chances’. The report opening: ‘Dulwich showered Wycombe with first half shots, and gave their high-riding opponents a much closer game than the scoreline suggests. But Dulwich’s threatened goal storm blew over, and it was Wycombe who shone with second half goals to completely change the picture.’
More injury woe as it was reported that Albert Modesto would be out for the rest of the season, after taking a knock against Kingstonian the previous week.  He had actually fractured his ankle, in the first five minutes of the game. At first he thought the injury was a bad sprain. However constant pain and heavy swelling made him seek professional advice over the weekend, which confirmed the fracture.
Plans were already in hand for the next season as the next Hamlet man in charge from the dugout was announced: ‘Gleeson likes a challenge’.  Reed’s replacement would be the Kingstonian manager, Peter Gleeson.  Apparently [he is] ‘…to amateur football what Cliff Holton is the professional game.  Both thrive on a challenge. Holton is nicknamed “The Doctor” because of his rescue acts at Watford, Crystal Palace, Charlton and now Leyton Orient. For Gleeson, 45, nothing as illustrious as the have-boots-will-travel career of Holton. But none will deny his great Richmond Road rescue act. When Gleeson, a representative for a steel company, took over Kingstonian eleven years ago their plight did not differ much from that of Dulwich Hamlet today. They were second from bottom of the table. It took him two years to get things working, and on his third season with the club he steered them to the Amateur Cup final for the first time in fourteen years. “Dulwich is a challenge, and I love a challenge. That’s my reason for joining them. Dulwich is a club that just cannot stay down – not with all the facilities they have to offer. I felt like a change.  I’m leaving Kingstonian on the best of terms, and everyone there has wished me luck.” Gleeson, who lives in Surbiton, will not take over officially until next season. Present coach Frank Reed has to work out his contract, and Gleeson is still under obligation at Kingstonian. “Kingstonian have been very good about this. If they fill my vacancy before the end of the season I will be free to go to Dulwich.” Gleeson started his career with Luton Amateurs, before spells with Guildford, Dartford and Brentford.’
The next match was actually away to Kingstonian, another defeat: ‘Both sides had little to gain by collecting two Isthmian League points on Saturday. And unfortunately they played like it’; though it was the K’s who took the points in a 3-0 victory. The losses continued, with a ‘milestone’ of unwanted sorts in the next one. As the headline stated: ‘Dulwich concede 100th Isthmian League goal’. This was in a 5-2 home defeat to Barking, which was our last home league match of the season. Our goals came in a brief flurry after the break: ‘Dulwich scored twice within a minute midway through the second half to draw level, but it was the only time Barking creaked and the visitors ran out easy winners.’ With the season drawing to a close there were a serious of unusual matches to fulfil. The first was a Surrey Invitation Cup tie, at home to Croydon Amateurs. We lost 3-1, after extra time, the headline went to our keeper, who in modern parlance, ‘had a mare’; while the reporter was none too impressed with the referee: ‘Hamlet haunted by Rispoli’s boob’. Croydon took the lead and we equalised immediately after half-time. ‘Dulwich should have gone on to win but a boob by keeper Ray Rispoli during the early part of extra-time destroyed their chances. But if Rispoli allowed an intended cross to sail over his head for the second goal, it was weak referee Gern who turned out to be the night’s biggest sinner. In the 36th minute indignant Croydon players were annoyed when home pivot Dick Clarke brought down Sheehan, but it was only after much consultation that they were able to convert the penalty. Minutes earlier a run by Hamlet’s Bobby Homewood ended with left-back Scott clearly handling but without having to pay the penalty. There was no action from Gern after Scott back-heeled into Peter Smith and then hacked down Vic Wren. And ten minutes from time Ron Cane and Lloyd were involved in another nasty incident which also went un-penalised. Enough was enough when Hamlet’s best forward was penalised a number of times for legitimately agitating keeper Brown as Dulwich strove to get on with it.’
So to the last Ieague match of the season. Bottom for the first time in our history – ‘Poor Dulwich give Wren the day off’, as we went north of the river: ‘Dulwich end their Isthmian League programme at Wealdstone with the knowledge that not even a miracle could lift them off the bottom of the table. Four seasons after the slide began, when with only 16 teams in the league, they finished on the second to last rung. In the 1963-64 season the league increased its division to twenty clubs, but this only made the Champion Hill side’s results seem even worse, when they strolled into 19th place.  Dulwich, 4 times Isthmian League champions, 7 times league runners-up, 4  FA Amateur Cup wins, 3 London Senior Cup wins, nine London Charity Cup wins, 14 Surrey Senior Cup wins and four times South of the Thames Cup winners, are bottom of the table.’ With regard to the mention of Vic Wren, he had been given permission to play for his firm, so David Wise came into the side.
But the change made no difference, of course.  ‘Now it’s 33 Isthmian defeats for Hamlet’ as we lost 4-0 to the Stones. Sometimes it can get a bit tiresome hearing fans older than myself putting me in my place after I might moan about a lean spell, as they tell me about ‘the right lot’ we had in the Sixties …but having spent hour upon hour ploughing through these old match reports, I can see where they were coming from. For those following The Hamlet back then the suffering wasn’t over, as there were still a few end of season matches to play, which fell by the wayside in the last few decades. One such competition was the ‘Micky Mayes Memorial Cup’, that teams were invited to compete in, against the instigating club Carshalton Athletic. I believe it still exists to this day, but don’t think it is played for very often, pretty certain not every year. It’s one we have taken part in several times, and this season it was over two legs, the first being at Champion Hill, but still not a win. ‘Smart Carshalton take first leg’, with ‘a combination of bad luck and wretched finishing saw Dulwich lose their final home match of the season’ as we lost one nil.
Before the return was played there was an interesting game at Champion Hill, which we won … but I can’t count it as it was an ‘inter-Club’ friendly, with the current Dulwich Hamlet team taking on a Past XI! It would be interesting to know who wore Pink & Blue? The Past side was publicised as having a squad of fourteen, & outgoing manager Frank Reed agreed to go in goal for the latter stages. Out of those 14, eight were said to be Club officials. The paper the day before the match listed the probable line-ups:
Present: McKenzie, Hammond, Homewood, Woollard, Hills, Cane, Wren, Wise, Pearton, Smith & Kilderman.
Past (from):  Dave Darvill or Frank Reed, Bert Clarkson, Doug Munday, John Hall, Wally Thrussle, Pat Connett, Harry Gornall, Tom Jover, Harry Brown, George May, George Price and John Everitt.
All great fun, no doubt, with the boss himself making the headlines: ‘Reed stops the rout’. There was only a brief report, unfortunately, but it told us that: ‘At half time the present Dulwich Hamlet team led the past by five goals to one and looked good for more goals. But then resigning coach Frank Reed took over in goal to produce a great display…Only a crisp, close-in Peter Smith shot got past him to make it 6-1 at the finish.’ The other Present team scorers were a hat-trick from Terry Pearton, and one each by Bobby Homewood and Vic Wren. The Past side’s lone goal was bagged by John Everitt.
After that kickabout it was back to more serious stuff, the second leg of the Mayes Memorial Cup. We came close, but not close enough, a 2-2 draw not enough after the Champion Hill defeat: ‘Dulwich pipped at post’, which was the result of a ‘vigorous fightback’. The Robins took the lead in the 4th minute, before Tony Dew equalised seven minutes before the break, where he ‘fastened on to the ball just inside the penalty area and banged it past three bewildered Carshalton defenders’.  With 20 minutes left on the clock Dave Wise gave us the lead with a ‘goalmouth scramble’, but only four minutes from the end the Carshalton centre-forward Dave Clark kept the cup with his club, hitting a ‘low, scorching 30-yard drive.’
There was another chance of silverware, for our final game of the season. We had been invited by Erith & Belvedere, to go and play them for the Woolwich Hospital Cup.  Sadly it ended in an extra time loss, as a ‘Late penalty thwarts sad Hamlet’, which meant we were beaten by the odd goal in seven. We were told that ‘Erith deserved their win if only because they played nearly all of the second half and extra time with only eight fit players’. Two were taken to hospital, rather ‘fitting’ given the name of the cup! Whilst another was just ‘a limping passenger’.
There was one other game at Champion Hill, involving our tenants. The Corinthian Casuals side from the 1956 FA Amateur Cup final beat their Bishop Auckland counterparts four one, a reversal of the actual game score, over a decade before. I mention this because it was in 1956 that we reached our last ever Amateur Cup semi, when we lost to the Casuals, at Stamford Bridge, with no less than FIFTY coachloads of fans making the trip from Champion Hill! The crowd that day at Chelsea was over 27,000.
Sadness at the close of our season, as it was mentioned that one of our great club stalwarts Dick Jonas had passed away. You can read more of him in back issues of the ‘Hamlet Historian’.
During the summer there was a bit of cheer in early June, as we won the Old Wilsonians 6-a-sides, for the third successive year. We defeated Greater London League outfit Beckenham Town 2-1 in the final.
Now it was time for a little break until the new season, under a new manager, with pre-season training due to commence on Tuesday 11th July.  We were informed that: ‘In an effort to be really fit for the start of the season, Dulwich’s new coach Peter Gleeson, has called for three training nights instead of the usual two’. And there were tentative high hopes for the pitch too, as it had been completely re-seeded.  As the training commenced official Tommy Jover was quoted: ‘We have received many applications for new players, some of them top class. We are always interested in new faces.’
Things were certainly being taken seriously: ‘Gleeson fixes new-look start of season’. For the first time in our history we would leading into one by playing professional opponents. This might surprise younger fans, but until fairly recently pre-season matches didn’t commence until August, and this was still the case, the first being on the 5th of that month, away to Ashford Town. There would also be home matches against both West Ham United and Fulham XI’s; as well as a home game with Sussex County leaguers Lancing. The Ashford game came as a result of an FA Cup defeat against them two years earlier, when we lost two nil. The Nuts & Bolts enjoyed their visit and their manager Peter Sillett, the former Charlton Athletic full-back, asked to play a friendly return fixture. The Football League opposition was through contacts of the new boss Gleeson. A strong work-out indeed, but still none won. Not that I could have ‘included’ them, as our Club do not recognise pre-season matches in official records.
Rather than bore you with the details of how the new 1967/68 season went, as this has really become a piece on our worst ever season, minus the ‘good bit’ at the beginning,  I shall fast forward to Saturday 2nd September 1967. Having lost our opening Isthmian games, we were at home to Ilford. Without our goalkeeper to boot…not a good omen: Butler aced by tennis tourney’. It seems our first choice man between the sticks would be participating in another sport! ‘The trouble with Bob Butler, Dulwich Hamlet’s promising young goalkeeper, is that he is too good a sportsman. He proves this part by missing Dulwich’s game tomorrow. He will be teaming up with his uncle in the final of the doubles in the Basingstoke open tennis tournament. “He only entered to keep fit during the close season, and was more than surprised to find himself in the finals”, said club official Tommy Bedford.’
Sadly, the following edition did not inform us how he fared…but-finally, after a long trawl! – I can now share with you the FIRST Dulwich Hamlet victory of my life! ‘At last-a league win for Dulwich’.  It was 2-1 in our favour, and I wonder how many weary Hamlet fans missed the glory, as we were one down with only ten minutes to go … I am sure a number would have been thinking ‘same old rubbish’ and left early. It was a late leveller, then a winner only two minutes from time. Both scored by Tony Williams. He may have been the hero of the hour, but the whole team were no doubt lauded as the final whistle was blown. The victorious team being: Mackenzie, Langford, Smith, Lovett, Hills, Cane, Wren, Woollard Searle, Williams and Deadman. To cap a great day for the club the Reserves won by the same score at Hendon, with goals from Eddie Lowe and Chris Cosgrove; whilst the ‘A’ team made it a glorious treble by beating Kingstonian ‘A’ on the Top Pitch. I bet people were ‘more than merry’ that night!  As the report stated-‘Happy days are here again-that could well be the slogan gracing the entrance gates of Champion Hill, after Hamlet’s game against Ilford on Saturday, at long last, after many trials and tribulations, the Hamlet had succeeded in winning an Isthmian League game, the first success since as long ago as October 24th last’. [sic]
In actual fact our last victory was ten days earlier, on October 14th 1966. But somehow it seemed fitting that their typo would be at the finish of my search for my first ever Hamlet victory, with my date of birth being October 24th 1966.

This article was published in HH25 Spring 2014