Different Days, 1975-1990 and beyond:

Highfield, Plough Inn, ICL and Horsforth Fairweather.

"Time, the devourer of all things." - Ovid, "Metamorphoses" (I think!)

  And that, as they say, was that.

  No doubt, as Ian Gardner had put it, the rest of the teams in the third division would indeed have been delighted to have us stay, although Eric Sedgman's views on the subject were perhaps a bit less positive. But it had been clear to me for some time that my continuing to play the leading role in the club was no longer practicable, because, inevitably, I was spending most of my time in Leeds these days. It was becoming ever more incompatible with the demands that my course was making, demands which were more likely to get heavier than lighter in the next couple of years. My increasing involvement with the Students' Union at Leeds Uni was also proving a great drain on the limited resources of my time. Most crucially, Box Hill and Scarborough generally were impinging far too much on the overwhelming generosity shown to me by my "adopted" family, the Cranstons, to whom my gratitude is eternal. From early spring 1975, the tiresome in-fighting notwithstanding, my only real purpose had been to get the club into a suitable state to be handed over to another Secretary.

  At the very least, some of the more obvious deficiencies in personnel had been addressed. Willy Weaver had developed into a defender who, if not quite in the same class as Steve Slade, would surely take some of the colossal work-load away from that excellent but sorely pressed central defender. Andy Porter had served notice that Steve Toal would have some support in the vital midfield area. Perhaps most importantly, in Les Appleby we now had a striker who was scoring goals regularly. Quality in all positions? Well, I wouldn't go quite that far - the goalkeeping spot was one area my successor would have to address urgently, as Chris Hooper was about to stage a disappearing act - but at least we had some proven talent in every area of the field. We had also got over the hurdle of that first season, and everybody still with the club knew what was expected of them in the years ahead.

  As Les Bailey, who had more or less acted as my assistant all year, was the only one interested, the succession duly passed to him. He asked for, and got, and certainly used, a free hand as regards changing the playing staff, so much so that by the start of next season he had fallen out with even more people than I did. It was universally agreed that a change of name would be appropriate, as the new club would be unrecognisable from what had gone before, and so Highfield FC was formed, the name deriving from the area of town where Les lived.

  Spending the summer of 1975 working at the Elizabethan Hotel, I turned out for the new enterprise in the ill-fated Sports Centre Five-a-Side competition, and when that enjoyable but, it must be conceded, technically illegal tournament was prematurely curtailed by the District FA, achieved a certain local notoriety by writing to the Evening News in protest. When Les presented my Highfield signing-on form to Eric Sedgman next season, he was told it was accepted, "with great reluctance". Well, such is the price of fame, but this rebellion was to be my last contribution to local football in Scarborough.

  Highfield announced themselves properly to the world, just as Box Hill had done, at the Jim Rollo Six-a-Sides at the Athletic Ground. A side consisting of Chris Pygas, Tony Hodgkinson, Les, myself, Don Coates and Kevin Butler went out unceremoniously, 6-0 to Cayton in the first round. For some reason, the tangerine shirts that had so characterised the Box Hill period were deemed unsuitable for Highfield, and Les got hold of the old Cooplands kit, amber and black. I think it was this more than anything else that brought it home to me that the curtain had indeed come down on an era. When the league season started, there were many new faces on view, and a sad absence of several older ones. Such of course is always the way of things in local football, but this year the parting of the ways was, for some of us, more or less final.

  Eric Sedgman need not have worried unduly about my sullying his league any more. Although the temptation to be there every week was indeed strong, it was not irresistible. I seem to recall being unused sub in one league game (against whom I've no idea), but generally kept well out of the way, confining myself to listening to Les's colourful reports about the games in the Vending Room at Leeds Uni on Sunday nights. It would be a long time yet before I'd refer to Leeds as "home", but, from the summer of 1975 onwards, it was, with hindsight, the natural course of things.

  Among the former Box Hill stalwarts to play for Highfield were Les Appleby, the Toal brothers, Steve Slade, Andy Wiffen, Tony Hodgkinson, Chris Pygas and of course Les Bailey. Of the new recruits, the only ones Les can recall are Roger Pashby, Steve Gash, Pete and Steve Elliker, Andy Dove, Mal Williams, Kev Butler, Derek Megginson and George Brooks. No doubt there were others.


  To cut a long story short, after a season that was every bit as unsuccessful as the Box Hill campaign, Les handed over control to Steve Toal, and there was another name change, to Plough Inn. Under this banner, the club survived well into the 1980s, although by the time it folded, somewhat under a cloud if stories are to be believed, none of the Box Hill people were still involved.

  Maybe one day someone will write down the history of these clubs, but now I've done my bit.

  As it turned out, Les Bailey went on to play for Throxenby in 1976-77, and on occasion roped in both myself and Pete Cranston (I recall him being booked in a pre-season friendly against the Home Guard Club), but it was never going to be the same as having our own club. Later on, Chris Pygas and Tony Hodgkinson also turned out for our old rivals, Tony in fact taking up a teaching post at Throxenby Hall. Kevin Phillips, who went to work for Negas, played for their side for many years, and it was through his good offices that the 1990 comeback game against British Gas, as they were by then known, was arranged.

  The 1978-79 season saw me, a temporary Londoner, playing for ICL Reserves in the Reading Sunday League, where they tried to teach me to head the ball and such tricks of the trade as kicking with my left foot, skills that had been sadly lacking in my Box Hill days. They also made me play at full-back, definitely not my vocation back in 1974, but a position in which I was to ply my trade for another eleven years.

  In 1980, my love for the game and confidence in my own ability somewhat restored, I helped found another Sunday football team, this time back in Leeds, the famous Horsforth Fairweather FC. The ubiquitous Les Bailey had been a fringe member of the club in our formative period, during his student days in Leeds, and Pete Cranston attended one practice session, after which I was politely asked not to bring him again! Our first campaign was all too reminiscent of the Box Hill days (heavy defeats nearly every week, never-ending arguments about team selection, that sort of thing), but this time the foundations were a little firmer, and I was a little older and perhaps a little wiser. Let's say that a few unresolved problems which became issues at Box Hill were not allowed to recur. The club has now [2021] lasted through over forty seasons, some terrible, some tolerable, a few terrific, but all hugely memorable in their own way. The orange shirts which Box Hill wore in the 1990 reunion game bore a remarkable resemblance to Horsforth's change kit of the time. I played over 175 games for HFFC altogether, all but about two in defence - few who witnessed the Throxenby game will believe it, but I ended my career holding down a fairly regular place in a fairly decent side at left-back.

  In 1991, I became Team Manager, and for the first time in my career actually won something, the championship of Division Six of the Leeds Combination League - not that impressive a trophy perhaps, but a bit of a step up from the Box Hill era. On the subject of whether the reason for the dramatic change of fortune was my brilliant management or the fact that (at long last!) I'd all but packed in playing, opinions were divided right down the middle: I claimed it was the former, everyone else the latter. After a couple more successful seasons, I abdicated the hot seat, and nowadays just concentrate on being Club Secretary. By now, of course, none of the founder members are still playing, but the links with the past have been maintained down the years, and I like to think there something special about this club too. HFFC also have a pretty comprehensive web site - there's a link on the Box Hill Home Page.

  The "Box Hill 1990" project arose out of a chance meeting of several of the participants at Easter of that year, when we all become possessed by an irrational urge to relive the folly of our by now rather long vanished youth. Many of the old players (though, sadly but perhaps inevitably, by no means all of them) were tracked down, and roped in for a couple of nights out in the autumn, plus of course the infamous comeback match against British Gas. The burgeoning Box Hill nostalgia industry gave rise to a series of newsletters, and of course the early editions of the booklet from which these pages have been developed. The drinking sessions continued sporadically for a year or two, but provisional plans to organise another game were mercifully not pursued, and Box Hill FC was finally laid to rest with rather more dignity than might have seemed appropriate in 1975.

  When Box Hill started, Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, Ted Heath the Opposition Leader, and Brian Clough the Leeds United manager. In season 1974-75, Derby County won the First Division, with Liverpool runners-up and Ipswich third. West Ham beat Fulham 2-0 in the Cup Final, and Aston Villa beat Norwich 1-0 in the League Cup Final, as it was then called. It was also the season that Bayern Munich beat Leeds 2-0 in the European Cup Final in Paris.

  Over the course of the twelve months or so that the tangerine (or white!) shirts terrorised Eric Sedgman, the following albums topped the LP charts (as we old hippies used to call them): Bowie's "Diamond Dogs", Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run", Mike Oldfield's "Hergest Ridge", "Elton John's Greatest Hits" (the original), Quo's "On the Level", and Led Zep's "Physical Graffiti" - though, oddly enough, not the far superior "Nadir's Big Chance" by Peter Hammill. Number One singles of the time included: "King Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, "Gonna Make You a Star" by David Essex, "Lonely This Christmas" by Mud, "Streets of London" by Ralph McTell, and "Make Me Smile" by Cockney Rebel. Mick Ronson joined Mott the Hoople, Nick Drake died, and Mick Taylor left the Rolling Stones.

  But of course, for us, Box Hill was more important than any of that. (Well, OK, it was a shame about Nick Drake, but you know what I mean.) The year 1974-75 will always be remembered by me as the Box Hill year.

Next page, the 1990 reunion game against British Gas.

Box Hill Home Page.