Old programme from days when Gulls had one of the best sides in their history

The programme from February 23, 1957

The programme from February 23, 1957 - Credit: Submitted

Sixty-four years ago this week Torquay United, just as they are today, were hellbent on promotion.

It was at a higher level, from the Football League's old Third Division South to Division Two (now the Championship), and United had one of the best sides in their history.

They had just beaten Swindon Town 7-0 and, after an unlucky 3-2 defeat at Coventry City, were about to take on struggling Norwich City at Plainmoor.

The line ups

The line ups - Credit: Submitted

Mike Steer, a lifelong fan from Bovey Tracey, has sent in a selection of old programmes, including one from that Canaries game on February 23, 1957.

The 12-page edition bore United's new colours of yellow and blue - the club had 'rebranded' from the black-and-white Magpies only two years earlier to advertise the Bay's golden sands and blue sea and skies.

Supporters in Torbay, Paignton and Newton Abbot hospitals wrote in to applaud the new radio commentary available in wards.

The League table 

The League table - Credit: Submitted

The editorial says of a disallowed goal by Ronnie Shaw at Coventry: "Shaw could not possibly have been offside - Harold Dobbie pulled the back to him.

Most Read

"When promotion points are at stake, such incidents are doubly mortifying.  Oh well, it is all in the game." A little more philosophical than today's 'social media'!

Fans were told: "The Norwich playing strength is 25 full-time professionals, nine part-timers and three servicemen."  National Service was still very much part of life.

British Railways offered return fares from Paignton for United's next away game at Queen's Park Rangers at 41s/9d (that's about £8 today!).

Other adverts give a nostalgic 'window' on life in Torbay in the late 1950s.

You could tuck in to 'fillet steak, tomato and chips' for 4/6 at Tonkins Restaurant in Union Street, down an after-match pint in Plainmoor's old Golden Blue Social Club or head for an evening at the Spa Ballroom to enjoy 'Art Jennings and his music, and a fully-licensed buffet'.

Supporters were urged to patronise KW Fletcher's typewriter shop in Torre, the Clarence Hotel - 'The Sportsmen's Rendezvous', 'Bass At Its Best' in the Grosvenor Lounge in Preston, Torquay's Victoria Hotel where 'Your Comfort Comes First' and Kents Cavern.

Apparently Pascoe's 'famous tripe and hogs pudding', available at their three Torquay and Paignton shops, gave 'that extra health and energy so important during the winter months'!

Founded in 1928 and still going strong today, Cobley's of Belgrave Road was the place to go for fish and chips.

On the left wing for United was Tony Collins, who went on to become the Football League's first black manager at Rochdale and died only recently at the age of 94.

The attack was on song again - Norwich were thrashed 7-1, with goals by Sammy Collins (2), on his way to 35 that season, Dobbie (2), Tony Collins, Graham Bond and the great Don Mills.

Eric Webber's side remained unbeaten at home (W19 D4 L0) to the end of the season. a crowd of 14,223 watching them end Southampton's own hopes with a 2-0 win at Plainmoor at Easter.

But, agonisingly, a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace in the last match saw them pipped for the title and single promotion spot on goal-average - not goal-difference in those days - by Ipswich Town, managed by a young Alf Ramsey.

It's the still the closest the club has ever been to the second flight of English football. 

Ramsey led Ipswich to the First Division Championship five years later and then England to the World Cup in 1966.

But many older United fans have always wondered - if United's goal-average had been slightly better in 1957, how might the history of the game have turned out differently?