Retro Sport with Roger Mann: Sixties soccer - a day out on the moor

Brian Carter and George Loye in the dressing room before the match.

Brian Carter and George Loye in the dressing room before the match. - Credit: Roger Mann

One Saturday morning in the winter of 1967, my alarm woke me, and I heard the sound of rain driving against the windows.

Why does it have to rain EVERY Saturday?  I thought, as I dressed for work.

And then I remembered that we were playing at Moretonhampstead this afternoon, so there was a good chance the match might go ahead.

In the 1960s, referees would postpone matches in the towns much sooner than in country settings.

When isolated on some moorland, and surrounded by 22 big, snarling, country lads, it was much harder to obey FIFA guidelines!

I swerved around a pond-sized puddle on the Newton Road, and arrived at work in driving rain.

After an hour or so, my phone rang. “Hi Rog, don’t forget to rob the bank, this morning, please!”

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I recognised Brian Carter’s voice, so replied: “OK! But do you think the match will be on?”

“Of course!” he said. “It always rains out there anyway! See you in the club!”

In 1967, I was playing for Paignton UDC in the Junior Division One of the South Devon League.

Our team was named after the PUDC club, in Church Street, which, in return for our lucrative custom, sponsored us, and paid our league fees.

Younger readers will find it hard to imagine the 1960s attitude to local soccer.

We very rarely trained, we had no tactical plans, but we loved kicking a football!

The PUDC team for 1967.

The PUDC team for 1967. From left, Ken Field, Keith Hare, Roger Mann, George Loye, Brian Carter, Johnny Haycock, Peter Northcott, Bungy Young, Tony Mann, Tony Washbrook and Jock McCargow. - Credit: Roger Mann

Saturdays with PUDC began with laughter, centred around 90 minutes of vigorous confrontation, and then ended with more laughs, and several pints of rough cider!

Around mid-morning, I borrowed £50 from the company’s petty cash tin, and set off to meet the lads in Church Street.

It was my turn to take one of the cars, and the journey to Moreton was the usual riotous mixture of giggles, shouts and mild profanities.

As we drove past Bovey Tracey, one of the lads piped up: “Are we playing pub darts tonight?”

“Yes! Brian asked Roger to bring the money, so he must have plans!” replied big George Loye, from the back seat.

It was still raining heavily when we arrived at Moreton, and getting even heavier!

We had to leave the car in the lane, and make our way to the furthest of two dilapidated caravans, with our macs draped over our heads.

We changed in the dark, inside the caravan, and then sat waiting until someone came to get us.

At just before 3pm, the door was thrust open by a big, red-faced countryman in an oilskin. “The pitch idn’t bad... considerin'," he said.

As we emerged slowly, the farmer was still driving his bullocks from the pitch.

We began kicking a ball about, as Brian strode through the driving rain to toss up.

He signalled with his thumb that we were playing up the hill, then turned towards us, and stretched open his arms.

With the rain pouring down his face, he began to quote from King Lear, as only Brian could... “Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are, that bid the pelting of this pitiless storm.”

The other captain stared open-mouthed, and the referee shouted: “Get on with it!”

After ten minutes, the pitch began to turn into a quagmire.

“Someone build an ark!” shouted George, as he hoofed the ball up field.

It was still 0-0 after 40 minutes, and the centre of the pitch was a gruel of mud.

It seemed to me that the football pitch had morphed into the liquid caramel that you find in the centre of a Rolo chocolate... and still the rain fell!

“There’ll be no half-time,” shouted the official. “And I’ll referee from the touchline.”

We were no longer trying to pass the ball, but, simply, to kick it up-field.

Bungy Young lost a boot, and Keith ended up face-down in the mud.

“I can’t do the breast stroke,” he shouted, but we just ignored him!

Neither of the teams got anywhere near scoring, and the game ended at 0-0.

As we walked off, Brian turned to me and said: “Gawd! That was awful!”

“I hope you remembered the cash for later! We need to cheer ourselves up!” 

Next week: The day ends in the pub!