Six months after the Torbay Gentlemen visited Torquay’s twin town of Hamlin in 1974, the Germans paid us a return visit. Today, the teams attend a civic reception at Harbour Lights
After a roast dinner, with all the trimmings, the mayor welcomed the Hamlin group, and presented Wolfgang, its leader, with a present from Torbay.
Hearing the rain teeming down outside, we didn’t mind if the speeches lasted for ever. But, in the end, a roomful of ageing footballers couldn’t delay the inevitable any longer, and, one by one, got soaked running out to the transport.
The rain was hammering on the roof of the bus as Wolfgang asked me: “Is it far to the Torbay stadium?”
Six months ago, we had beaten the Germans 1-0 in their impressive Weserbergland Stadium, which holds 20,000 people in comfort, and now, we were about to renew the rivalry at Galmpton which holds 100 people, in Wellington boots and umbrellas!
To their credit, our German guests didn’t show their disappointment, and, soon, we were all laughing and changing together.
Suddenly, as we ran out towards the pitch, the rain and the environment didn’t seem to matter.
However old and wet we were, this was England v Germany!
For Mike Sangster, it must have felt a million miles from the hard courts of the Costa Brava, but after 20 minutes he put us into the lead from a free kick.
Alan Parker, our mild-mannered right winger, made it two from 25 yards, and we went into half-time with a handy lead.
Whether it was our age, or our ample lunch, that made the difference, I have no idea, but our younger opponents pulled two goals back early in the second half.
The last half hour was played out in pouring rain and deep cloying mud!
Then, just as we were all settling for a draw, one of the German full backs tripped up Maurice Travis in the penalty area, and the referee pointed to the spot!
The penalty area was a sea of mud, and no-one fancied taking the kick.
After what seemed ages, Toby Horton stepped forward and volunteered to take it.
Toby was a happy-go-lucky character who never stopped talking, joking, and laughing all day long.
He was the ideal man to take it, because he would have just smiled if he missed it!
But it was Toby’s day, and with the outside of his right foot, he defied the mud and beat the goalkeeper easily.
So, since there was no Geoff Hurst to make it 4-2, the final whistle blew and we had completed the double with a 3-2 victory.
Although we were all friends in the changing room afterwards, there was nothing quite like being an Englishman who had just beaten Germany twice!
Later that night, we all met again at the Warwick ballroom of the Victoria Hotel where we introduced our guests to an old-English style barn dance.
Because the Hamlin group were lodging in our homes, we were able to dress them up in country costume, and, in no time, we knew it would be a party which none of us would forget!
We had arranged for only German beer to be available, and it went down well.
It would be another 50 years before Jurgen Klopp told us never to skim an Erdinger, but on this night, we didn’t need his advice to down the froth and all!
Until nearly midnight, The Barleycorns kept us all dancing, and the ballroom echoed with the Teutonic version of “Take your partner and Do-si-Doe”.
It had been a wonderful day, full of smiles and comradeship, and every bit as memorable as the day we were hosted in Hamlin.
At 7am the next day, we took our guests, and their bags full of muddy football kit, to meet their coach.
Many a tear was shed as we said Auf Wiedersehen.
Now nearly 50 years later, I am left to reflect on the sad fact that we were destined never to meet again. Thank goodness for memories!
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