Bus and Boat Return

As a bit of light relief, given our present travails, and with an eye to nostalgia, I thought I would pen and submit this short article.

Bus and Boat Return

League Division 1. Everton vs Wolverhampton Wanderers. 5 December 1964

The recent fixture and rare home win against Wolves this season prompted thoughts about previous games against the team from the Black Country. One that will always stick in my mind is a game played on a very wet and grey day in December 1964. The date was memorable because it was the day on which I finally became a regular attendee at the cathedral of football, Goodison Park. Previous attempts at getting to the game regularly had been hampered by a lack of funds and school sporting commitments.

My formative years were spent in a tidy semi-detached house in Bebington on The Wirral. Journeys to the big City were by bus and train or bus and boat. The ferries across the Mersey were then operated by Birkenhead Corporation, as were the local buses, so you could purchase a bus and boat return, then, for the princely sum of 11½ pence, if memory serves.

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Accompanied by Richard, a school mate who lived nearby, and whose idea it was to brave the conditions, we set off from Cross Lane to Woodside, Birkenhead. From there the ferry took us to the Pier Head. We were making the journey in confident anticipation that the game would go ahead, since Bill Bothwell had given a preview of the match in his round-up of games on the Home Service (now BBC Radio 4) at 12:30.

A line of green football special buses were conveniently available at the Pier Head and we were quickly transported to the ground, being dropped off in Carisbrooke Road or Delamore Street, a short walk from the ground. As the bus approached our destination you could see the tall floodlight pylons so characteristic of the Old lady in those days, with the lights full on at 2:30 and highlighting the incessant rain that day.

Our spec for that game, and the rest of the season, was beneath the old Main Stand from where we had a good view across the pitch and to both goalmouths.

The game itself was inevitably marred by the conditions and the state of the pitch, which was close to having areas of standing water. However the blues mastered these conditions better than the boys in Old Gold and ran out 5-0 winners. The first was scored by Fred Pickering, from a tight angle wide right of the goal, having latched on to a misplaced pass from their centre-half that failed to reach the keeper, being held up by the soggy ground. As to other personalities involved, I can recall Derek Temple, Jimmy Gabriel, Sandy Brown and Ray Wilson. For the opposition I can really only recall Hugh McKilmoyle who had two spells with my other team, Carlisle Utd.

The scorers that day were, Pickering 2, Temple 2, and a rare goal from Sandy Brown.

Some 27,500 drowned souls went home happy that evening, an otherwise grey day having been illuminated by a solid and inventive team performance. Our return home to Bebington comprised a quick dash across Walton Road to pick up the football specials for the Pier Head, catching the 5 o’clock ferry if we were lucky, and back by bus to Cross Lane. The journey was spent studiously reading the programme. This was a slim and compact volume with a classic Royal Blue cover on which there was a 45-degree perspective line drawing of the ground.

Any delay to our return would be compensated by getting into the newsagents in time for the Football Echo, printed on pink paper. These soon sold out, it being compulsory reading over Saturday “tea” for the many locals who followed the Merseyside teams.

The following week, same conditions, but no repeat. The game against Stoke City ended 1-1. Stoke of course knew all about soggy pitches; a permanent characteristic of the old Victoria Ground.

Happy days. The only social media was the school playground on Monday morning — by which time analysis was more reflective than knee-jerk!

Glad to receive any corrections to my recollection of this game.

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Reader Comments (8)

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Derek Taylor
1 Posted 15/10/2019 at 18:31:19
Catterick got us to 4th place that season, Alisdair, thanks mainly to Fred Pickering who bagged no less than 36 goals in all games.

The Echo branded the Leeds game at Goodison as one of the dirtiest ever with Sandy Brown getting sent off after only five minutes. The ref took both teams off after about half and hour to calm down. They didn't !

Alan McGuffog
2 Posted 15/10/2019 at 18:44:01
The game against Stoke. I may have been dreaming this but in this game, similar weather conditions, was Andy Rankin in goal? And did he get injured and play out the game on the left wing with Sandy going in goal? I'm not sure such a thing was allowed in professional football which makes me wonder if this is false memory syndrome. Anyone?
Dave Williams
3 Posted 15/10/2019 at 19:28:31
Alan, I think it was allowed back then. Players could even continue with blood on their shirt back then and with no subs it was not unusual to see an injured goalkeeper stuck out on the wing while an outfielder went in goal.

Players were much tougher back then!

Alasdair Jones
4 Posted 16/10/2019 at 13:11:35
Alan, you are correct. I recall the incident but I'm not sure why Rankin was playing. Presumably Gordon was injured However Sandy did pull off a couple of game saving stops, and the team kept the ball away from the new winger as best they could. Interesting to note that the game attracted about 5,000 more spectators in the hope that the previous weeks goal fest would be repeated.

Derek, yes it was the season of the infamous game against newly promoted Leeds who from that day on cast a stain over the First Division and heralded a new mean spirited era whenever they played, as reflected in the film about Brian Clough.

Per Stumo
6 Posted 16/10/2019 at 20:13:20
Peter Mills
7 Posted 18/10/2019 at 14:16:07
Alan, Dave, I think that situation lead to a change in the rules, certainly as far as goalies went in European games. I remember Gordon West injuring his shoulder in an Inter Cities Fairs Cup game the following season against Nuremberg, and Andy Rankin came on as sub. I think goalies were the only players who could be subbed.

I’m sure I can remember someone playing for us on the left wing with his arm in a sling.

Martin Nicholls
8 Posted 21/10/2019 at 18:29:06
Good article Sas - why wasn't Yozz with you?!

Can't say I recall either of these two games but I vividly remember our greatest victory at Anfield earlier that season in which Rankin played (out of his skin!) - I think Westie might have been injured as I recall that the result was unexpected as we were forced to play an injury hit eleven.

Alasdair Jones
9 Posted 26/10/2019 at 08:33:59

Yoz aka Graham Hughes, being almost two years younger than myself was probably under a shorter parental leash at the time. I think regular joint attendance along with some others from school probably came the following season. However he did go with me to the rearranged derby game in April 1965; won 2-1.

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