The Wonderful World of Football
- well, my world anyway!
Football is in my blood. It all started with my older brother Paul. He supported Leeds United (I don't know why) so naturally I did as well, because that's what younger brothers did in those days. That was at the end of the Sixties and I can still vividly recall the first time a game of football made me cry, Leeds' FA Cup final defeat by Chelsea in 1970. I'll never forgive Dave Webb. I was ten years old. My love of Leeds has remained strong throughout the last 30+ years although other football commitments have restricted my visits to Elland Road. My best moments include receiving a surprise card and photo on my 11th birthday, personally signed by all of the team and the late, great Don Revie; watching Leeds lift the League Championship trophy in 1992 after a 1-0 win over Norwich, and meeting some of my heroes like Terry Cooper, Carl Harris and more recently, Allan 'Sniffer' Clarke, on a visit to Elland Road in May 2001. Naturally, my younger brother Tim is also a Leeds fan and we managed to cram in a few Premiership and European Cup games over the last few seasons.
Those other football commitments I mention also started early on. In August 1971, I attended my first Cheltenham Town game, against Ilkeston in the Southern League First Division North. The Robins were my hometown team and I was immediately hooked. For the next 15 years I never missed a home game at Whaddon Road (it was like a drug) and for the final ten years, apart from a fateful day at Chelmsford City, I didn't miss an away match either. Throughout that time, I progressed from standing behind the goal with my pals to programme editor (a labour of love that I did for eight years), as well as PA announcer, local radio reporter (with Severn Sound for five years) and part-time reporter for a few newspapers. There were some great times, a few not so great times and a bagful of memories before I became disillusioned and accepted an offer - a free transfer in footy 'speak' - to join Kidderminster Harriers, as their programme editor for the next four years. In my first season, we reached the FA Trophy final at Wembley and won the replay at West Brom, which was probably the greatest single night of football I've experienced as a fan (see photo above). In 1990 I decided to hang up my pen (!) and began playing local Saturday football in Cheltenham, at the tender age of 31.
The idea was to play for a few years alongwith my brother Tim before retiring and then to return to watch it again from the terraces. I was never good enough to play anything other than local amateur football and I'd always turned out on cold Sunday mornings for teams such as EG Bagpuize, Douglas Equipment, Cheltenham Town Supporters, C&G and Charlton Kings. My introduction to the Saturday game ironically proved short-lived when I broke my leg in only my third game for Charlton Kings and was sidelined for most of that season. Injuries have been common place - a broken arm, fractured ankle and dislocated both shoulders - but I returned to the fray and played another season with Charlton Kings and one with Woodmancote. In 1993, I joined a newly-formed team, Hatherley Rangers, in the bottom division of the Cheltenham League and began a run of eight successful seasons in which we won two divisional titles, four other promotions, two cups and had a lot of fun. On a personal level, I bagged 237 goals in about 220 games - there's nothing that comes close to scoring goals, even at local amateur level - so I was happy with my contribution before finally hanging up my boots in April 2001.
With my boots now covered in cobwebs in the garage, I now watch a lot more football with my free Saturday afternoon's. I'd contined to visit Aggborough, the home ground of Kidderminster Harriers when I wasn't playing and now attend all the home games and a few away. The Harriers have recently been relegated back to the Nationwide Conference and unfortunately no longer enjoy a same-league rivalry with Cheltenham Town - isn't it funny that both clubs enjoyed successful promotions to the Football League after I left them! I also catch a few Leeds games as well. When I look back, its been a rollercoaster of mostly highs and a few lows but given the chance, I'd do it all again.
Typically Topical: 'The best move I ever made'
The following is an article I penned for 'The Harrier' in May 1989:- "The best move I ever made! I wonder how many players have said that - well, it can apply to the backroom staff too. After fifteen years, my allegiance to Cheltenham Town was on the wane when the call came from Graham Allner to take on the programme editors job at Aggborough. I didn't need to be asked twice by Graham, whom I first met when he was Allan Grundy's assistant at Cheltenham. Already working for the Harriers was my younger brother Tim, who was helping out Nick Savage on the commercial and lottery side of things and after watching quite a few Harriers games in 1985/86, my mind was already made up. Of course, I couldn't have hoped for a better first season with the Trophy final at Wembley and the never-to-be-forgotten Hawthorns replay, perhaps the only disappointment was our league form. Last season, the Challenge Shield win at Scarborough and the Welsh Cup victory at Hereford particularly stand out, while the FA Cup defeat at Maidstone provided the most frustrating moment. This season leading the table for so long prompted a few lofty thoughts but perhaps next season, while our successes over Cardiff and Hereford and the Maidstone game (I still can't believe we lost 6-3!) are particularly memorable.
On a personal note, my football watching began when my family moved close to Cheltenham Town's Whaddon Road ground. My first game, aged 11, was in the old Division One North of the Southern League in August 1971, the start of a love affair that was to last fifteen years. In that time, I didn't miss a home game (honest!), took on the programme editor's job in 1978 as well as reporting for both the Western Daily Press and Severn Sound Radio, while also helping out on the club's public address. Actually, the move to Aggborough felt more like a holiday! Although compiling the programme will take hours but reading it can take minutes, its a job I love and take great pride in. However, its not a one-man show and I'd like to thank everyone that's helped me out this season (particularly my long-suffering ex-girlfriend Carolyn). If there's any item that you would like to see in next season's programme, drop me a line and we'll do our best.
In my time at Cheltenham and here at Aggborough, I've been privileged to watch some great teams and outstanding individuals and I've listed below my all-time favourite line-up (although some of the names may be unfamiliar). In goal, ex-Blues keeper Dave Latchford was superb before work commitments ended his spell at Cheltenham. Mark Buckland stands out at right-back, while the other full-back berth goes to ex-England amateur international Julian Lailey, who was also my Economics teacher. At the centre of defence, Malcolm Kavanagh and Clive Boxall had great spells at Whaddon Road but did even better once they'd left! Graham Mackenzie, who made a lasting impression on his Robins debut in 1978, is my skipper and playmaker and is flanked in midfield by the precocious talent of Alan Ollis and Cheltenham's current England semi-pro cap Steve Brooks. Ollis oozed with natural ability, while Brooks never stopped running or shooting. Up front, Kim Casey is joined by two of Cheltenham's mercurial strikers of the early 80s, Charlie Green and Jimmy Gough. Yorkshire-born Green (right) was a centre-forward in the old fashioned mould, while Gough knew every trick in the book and used most of them. On the bench I've picked Paul Tester, who stood out at Cheltenham before spells at Shrewsbury and Hereford. Have a great summer and see you next season."
Well, that was in 1989. It's now 2001 and my choices for my favourite line-up have altered slightly. Out go Dave Latchford, Malcolm Kavanagh and Steve Brooks. In their places come former Harriers' Paul Jones, a great shot-stopper, genuinely nice lad and now one of the best keepers in the Premiership; man-mountain Chris Brindley who was an absolute rock in defence; and the man who did so much in such a short space of time at Aggborough, Mike Marsh. On the bench I'd have the precocious talent of Lee Hughes itching to get on the park. Here's the line-up:-
Mark Buckland : Clive Boxall : Chris Brindley : Julian Lailey
Mike Marsh : Graham Mackenzie : Alan Ollis
Jimmy Gough : Kim Casey : Charlie Green
subs - Lee Hughes : Paul Tester
Some might say, rather sadly, I used to spend a lot of time at the reference library in my teens and early twenties. When I wasnt reading the odd book to be found on Cambodia, I was researching a book I wanted to compile on Cheltenham Town football club. Heres an article that was published in The Gloucestershire Echo on 20 March 1982.
Andy Brouwer delves into the Robins past
Not many people would be content to spend much of their lives collecting information for a book which will probably never be written and which, if it was, would likely find few readers anyway, writes Derek Goddard. Andy Brouwer is more than happy to do just that. For the past seven years, he has spent hours browsing in libraries and interviewing old players researching the history of Cheltenham Town AFC. So far, the result of his many hours of loving labour is a mass of notebooks full of jottings and one day, one day, he will begin to try to sort it all out.
Brouwer (22), and a clerk at the Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society, finds fascination in the kind of detail that throws up men like Jack Wheeler, once Cheltenhams goalkeeper. Wheeler is now sponge-man at Notts County: he holds the record for the most sponge-man appearances he made more than 1,000 on the trot, reveals Mr Brouwer. And Cecil Green, another ex-Robin who is now a director at Swindon Town, once wrote his a nine-page letter . Jerry Woodrow, club secretary and a player before the war and now 82 and registered blind, wrote, with the help of his wife, a series of letters.
Brouwers involvement with the club began in August 1971, when he was 11. He had just moved to live near GCHQ at Oakley and discovered, through new-found friends, that Cheltenham had a football club. The first match he saw was a 1-1 draw Ilkeston, and he has not missed a home game since. For the last five years, he has not missed an away match either. His involvement became more active when he went to work at the building society on leaving Cheltenham Grammar School at 16, and met Richard Jones, the chairman of the Robins Supporters Association and programme editor. At the start of the 1978-79 season, Jones asked Brouwer to take over the programme, and he has been spending all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings, doing the work ever since.
He gets nothing but satisfaction from doing it: I just have this consuming interest in non-league football, and I have various contacts who keep me informed what is going on. One in Oswestry tells me things that are happening in the north, and so on. It would be his delight if his programme was adjudged the best of any in non-league soccer. He did quite well when he was awarded second place in the Southern League section of the Wirral national programme survey last season. The club that beat me was Kidderminster Harriers and they were second overall out of more than 500 entries, he says, proudly.
The idea for a book began while he was still at school. He heard that they had played Blackpool in the third round of the FA Cup, wanted to find out more about it, and spent the first of limitless hours in the reference library. It is such a time consuming thing. When I was at school, I used to spend all my holidays in the library reading old newspapers and writing down all the facts and figures. The 1920s and 1930s are pretty well covered, but before that, the information is in dribs and drabs. Nobody knows exactly when the club was formed. They say it was 1892, but I think it was before that.
Like all supporters, he has particular memories from matches he has watched: at Altrincham, when Dave Lewis played in goal and Dennis Brown scored two early gaols to carry them through: Lewis again, hurling himself through the mud for a magnificent headed goal against Banbury United This seasons two-match pulverising of Bath City stands high; a 4-3 win at Bath in the FA Trophy in 1974 with Lewis late hat-trick; Alan Jefferies own goal against his goalkeeping brother Malcolm in the FA Cup at Hereford in 1971-72, the season of Herefords big cup run all are wedged in his memory. His biggest disappointment was when they failed to qualify for the Alliance Premier League, and a constant frustration is their failure to do themselves justice when extra interest is generated in a match.
Away from work and the football club, he plays Sunday League soccer for EG Bagpuize, who have just finished second in Division One and was with Mosquitos and Whaddon and College as an under-16. At the end of the 1978-79 season he was nominated Cheltenhams supporter of the season and with Martyn Herbert, who has just watched his 400th consecutive game, is vying for the supporter-of-the-century accolade.
Postscript: Cheltenham Town were my hometown team for 15 years, I never missed a home game at Whaddon Road (it was like a drug) and for the final ten years, apart from a fateful day at Chelmsford City, I didn't miss an away match either. Throughout that time, I progressed from standing behind the goal with my pals to programme editor (a labour of love that I did for eight years), as well as public address announcer, local radio reporter (with Severn Sound for five years) and part-time reporter for a few newspapers. There were some great times, a few not so great times and a bagful of memories before I became disillusioned and accepted an offer - a free transfer in football parlance - to join Kidderminster Harriers, as their programme editor for the next four years. In my first season, we reached the FA Trophy final at Wembley and won the replay at West Brom, which was probably the greatest single night of football I've experienced as a fan. In 1990 I decided to hang up my pen after twelve years as programme editor with Cheltenham Town and Kidderminster and began playing local Saturday football in Cheltenham, at the tender age of 31. [May 2007]
I recalled my first foray to Cambodia in November 1994 in a blog post a couple of days ago. Well, at the exact same time, the following article appeared in The Pink Un, the local sports newspaper. Again, I think proper sports stories were sadly lacking that week! I'm currently moving home and have found a few articles which I'll post here for posterity sake over the next few weeks. Football and music are my two loves, besides Cambodia.
Nothing to shout about says Brouwer
Eighty-seven goals in 53 matches is some record, whatever the level of football but Hatherley Rangers Andy Brouwer is not shouting about his incredible tally. A former programme editor at Cheltenham Town and Kidderminster Harriers, Brouwers record has played a major part in Hatherleys rise to the top of Endsleigh Cheltenham League Division Five in only their second season since their foundation. But he is honest enough to admit that the standard of football has a lot to do with his strike rate. You have to remember that we are in Division Five, he said. But that is one of the reasons I do play, because I enjoy scoring so much and at this level you are almost guaranteed a goal.
That is not far from the truth, either, as Brouwers record this season 31 goals from 17 games - indicates. He was no so successful when he played for Division One Woodmancote I was in midfield but has since repaid Hatherley secretary Pete Newcombes faith in him. The Old Pats side I played for was disbanding and I wanted to found a new Saturday team, he said. I asked Andy to come and play for us and he has proved highly prolific and his goals helped us win the treble of Division Six, the County Cup and the Charities Cup. It is at a low level but no matter what the level, it is still a good record. Brouwer (35) has not had it all his own way this season, however, and he has had a good partner in Paul Lawrence, who at 21 is almost the exception in a side with more than half its players over 30. Lawrence and Brouwer have hit 10 goals each in their last five league games.
A year earlier in 1993, I joined Hatherley Rangers, in the bottom division of the Cheltenham League and began a run of eight successful seasons in which we won two divisional titles, four other promotions, two cups and had a lot of fun. On a personal level, I bagged 237 goals in 220 games with Hatherley so I was happy with my contribution before retiring from active football service in April 2001. I can't believe its been six years since I hung up my boots. [May 2007]
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