Total Football and the Summer of 1974.

"A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that all balances are correct."
- Frank Herbert, "Dune".

Box Hill today, with the Sixth Form College in the background

  Where do I begin?

  In the spring of 1974, most of us were still at school, the Scarborough Sixth Form College to give it its full name. We all played football together there (on games days, not of course for the school team or anything), and all seemed to get on socially. In May, Graham Armitage and Dave Cochrane organised a couple of teams to compete in the annual Six-a-Side competition at Braeburn School, and from there the bug quickly spread.

  June the 24th was the day it all started. We'd seen an article in the local rag, the Scarborough Evening News, about the Sunday League starting a new division, to add to the two it already had, and being on the lookout for new clubs to make up the numbers. For the first but by no means the last time, I rang the League Secretary Eric Sedgman, who confirmed that you didn't need your own ground to be in the league, as there were plenty of pitches going at Olivers Mount. He sounded quite enthusiastic about our joining his new Division Three, and enquired as to the name of the club whose virtues I was extolling so successfully. Caught a bit unawares by this question, I replied, "Er, Box Hill"; we were at the Sixth Form College at the time, and that was the first place name that came to mind from looking out of the nearest window. That really is how it happened; I'm sorry no-one believes me, but that was the way of it.

  So, we were in the league. At that time, we had all of six players: Graham Armitage, Steve Ward, Andy Wiffen, Steve Slade, Kevin Phillips, and myself. I was just turned eighteen, and some of the others, most notably Kevin, were not. We started training at Woodlands Tip over the summer, organising our over-stretched finances, buying our soon-to-be-famous tangerine shirts from Pykes, working out how many points we would accumulate over the new season (I think Duncan and Graham got as far as 18 points from 14 matches), and, almost incidentally, recruiting a few more players.

  From among the lads who were leaving School that summer, we brought in Duncan Claughton, Chris Pygas, Tony Hodgkinson, Dave Irvine, Steve Toal and Les Bailey, the last being the only one with any Sunday League experience, gained as permanent sub with eternal Second Division also-rans Cooplands. We added Mick Hayward and Rob Davies to the squad, long-term friends who showed willing, and Kevin brought along Norman Parkin.

  There were of course endless discussions about what kit to wear, and that nice lady at Pykes went through more than a few catalogues before she got any money off us. But the unforgettable 1974 World Cup had just ended, with that brilliant Dutch team of Jongbloed, Suurbier, Haan, Rijsbergen, Krol, Jansen, Neeskens, Van Hanegem, Rep, Cruyff and Rensenbrink losing to West Germany in the Final, one of the greatest travesties in the history of the game. There was something about that team that has captured the imagination of football enthusiasts down the years, and, as far as I was concerned, tangerine was the only contender for our strip.

  However, contrary to some stories, the decision to use squad numbers was only partially the result of such influences. It was more for practical reasons, in that it enabled everyone to have his own shirt, which he was then responsible for bringing to every game, rather than have one person trying to launder the entire kit, but it also contributed to the general feeling that there was something rather special about this new club of ours. Eric Sedgman scanned his rule-book, but in 1974 there was no statute to prevent the use of numbers from 1 to 22. Funnily enough, I can't for the life of me recall why I chose 15.

  We went on training, now up to three times a week. I was working at Woolworths over the summer, waiting to go to college in the autumn. Any incompatibility between being a student in Leeds and a football club secretary in Scarborough simply did not strike me, nor did any of the others who were about to be scattered all over the country have a realistic picture of just how little time they would be able to put into the club. Graham Armitage was headed for Leeds, Les Bailey for Derby (though, in the event, it turned out to be Leeds as well), Tony Hodgkinson for Nottingham, Chris Pygas for Huddersfield, Duncan Claughton for Bradford, yet we seemed to assume we'd all still see each other every weekend, for the Penthouse and Box Hill.

  Gradually, the team began to take shape. Graham Armitage would be right-back and captain, Duncan Claughton left-back. I always wanted Mick Hayward to be centre-back on account of his height, possibly paired with Chris Pygas, but neither of them seemed too pleased by this prospect. Maybe Andy Wiffen, our uncomplaining and somewhat put-upon "utility player" at school, could do the job? I fancied myself as a midfield player in those days, although I wasn't too sure how I'd get in the side there, with Steve Slade, Steve Toal and Les Bailey looking the best bets. Still, I imagined I could always get a game in defence. The strikers, even then, seemed to pick themselves: Norman Parkin, Kev Phillips and Steve Ward.

  Chris Hooper was only vaguely known to me at the time, from a couple of outstanding performances in school games, but we badly needed a goalkeeper, so I spared no effort to rope him in. The only worrying thing about him was his size; nearly half the team were under five foot six, and only Mick could truly be classed as above average height, but poor Chris was fated to have a terrible time with teams trying to lob him from great distances, and on more than one occasion a string of high quality saves was to be marred by his failing to reach a shot that a goalie of average dimensions would have dealt with comfortably.

  But none of these problems worried us greatly over the summer months. As the games at the Tip grew tougher, we gradually convinced ourselves of our invincibility. From playing against scratch teams of young kids, we began taking part in bruising (though by no means unsporting) matches with a party of Jehovah's Witnesses who had taken up residence there (the name Geoff Brewins is the one most often remembered, but there were others who remained our friends for years to come), and then found that a couple of the other sides in this new Division Three, by name Hackness and Alpine, were becoming regulars at the Tip and were keen to take us on. In the waning weeks of the summer, we appeared to be giving as good as we got in these phoney war encounters, certainly against Hackness if perhaps not Alpine.

  Obviously, our next step was to arrange some friendlies...

Next page, the first ever game, a friendly at Hackness.

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