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 www.pyramidpassion.co.uk  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 clich├ęs 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


DULWICH CRASH OUT OF FA CUP

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