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Two Southern League titles and one world cup

by: theterras

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This month we should have been enjoying Euro 2020 and possible England success. Obviously the only time the national side witnessed glory on the international scene was the World Cup of 1966. That was also the culmination of a very special couple of years for Weymouth fans as the Terras won the Southern League for the very first time and astonishingly went on to repeat the feat the very next season. Duncan Gardner takes a look back at these glory years with interviews from three of the stars of these teams.

It was the summer of 1964. The Beatles and Cilla Black dominated the charts and Brits were on their summer holidays. But these were the days before affordable foreign trips. A week by the Med would cost £16,000 for a family in today’s money and the crowds still flocked to English seaside resorts for their two weeks in their sun, many of them choosing Weymouth to spend their hard-earned wages.

The seasonal influx of grockles at least indirectly lined the pockets of Maurice Sapsworth (pictured right), chairman of Weymouth football club

at the time. And that very summer he decided to open the purse strings on the club coffers and spend over £400,000 in today’s money on summer signings, many coaxed away from league clubs. (Figures below in “today’s money”)

Andy Donnelly goalkeeper from Division 4 Millwall £50,000

Johnny Hannigan winger from Division 4 Bradford Park Avenue £20,000

Jackie Hinchcliffe half back from Division 4 Hartlepool £80,000

Barry Hutchinson forward from Division 2 Derby County £120,000

Alex Jackson centre forward from Division 2 Plymouth Argyle £80,000

Tommy Spratt forward from Division 4 Bradford Park Avenue £60,000

Many of the marquee purchases were forward-thinking players, probably bought in to bolster an attacking line-up that only scored 65 league goals the previous season, a poor return for an aspirational team in a buccaneering league.

But it was not just the chairman and other wealthy club grandees that made Weymouth a wealthy non-league club at the time. Gate receipts were also more than handy with crowds averaging well over 2,000 and a very successful supporters’ club that often handed over annual cheques that would be the equivalent of six-figure sums today.

And so manager Frank O’Farrell now boasted a wealth of local and imported talent at his disposal and aimed to do something that the club had never achieved. He was about to embark on his fourth season at the helm and perhaps he knew it was his last. It was rumoured that the club preferred a player-manager and Frank had hung up his boots that summer due to injury.

Credit: Photo by ANL/Shutterstock (2174644a)

IT WAS A DREAM

Three of the players who Frank signed before that season who will go on to share their memories of the two very special seasons that followed…

David Camp was a speedy winger from Portland who played for the Weymouth youth side in the late 1950s whilst working at the local dockyard. But when the yard collapsed he went away to Portsmouth to finish his apprenticeship until he returned to the borough in 1962 after completing his National Service…

DC: “I asked Frank [O’Farrell, manager] how he knew about me and he said he had watched me in some 6-a-side matches. I was gobsmacked, I didn’t think I was good enough to play at that level, to be honest. And at that time I’d gone away to Portsmouth, met my wife and football wasn’t in my mind very much until Frank came along, phoned me up and I couldn’t believe it and it went from there and it was a dream for six years.

“That season before Frank had tried to produce more local players like myself and Tony Hobson. We played table tennis together at the YMCA and youth football together. We were fielding eight or nine local players and I felt we were doing well but the crowd wasn’t happy. They liked to see the players who played for Manchester United or Birmingham and Torquay. They [the new signings] were superb players all playing league football. I don’t know how they got them because they performed so well for Weymouth!

“I had just come out of National Service without really having anywhere to live other than a caravan so the club found me a place to stay. There was big money in the club then.”

They even signed half a dozen more who didn’t make the first team but were expected to and the likes of me and Phil Stocker retained our places in the side which was lovely. There was a hell of a lot of wasted money that year. Some of these players were put into the second team, sometimes even the third team and they were on three times what I was earning. It didn’t matter to me, all I wanted to do was play football for the football club.

John Clarke was a young Welsh goalkeeper signed from Merthyr Tydfil…

JC: “Frank signed me from Merthyr Tydfil in the summer of 1963 but he told me I wouldn’t be going in goal for the first team because he already had a goalkeeper there [Bill Gourlay] who was retiring at the end of the year. So I played in the Western league.

“The signing came about as I was playing at Weymouth for Merthyr one evening and we were on the coach waiting to go home but our manager hadn’t appeared yet. The others told me to go and find him as we all had work the next morning so I went back into the ground and I burst in on him talking to Frank about me! At the time Newport [division 4] were interested in re-signing me. The next week their chief scout turned up near my house and took me for a pint and I said I’d think about it but then the agent spoke to Frank who said “sorry but John Clarke is now my player”. When I moved down to Weymouth they sent up a removal lorry to where me and my wife was living with her parents. We came down to the town in the lorry and they found us a place to stay on Chickerell Road where we paid the rates.”

ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID

And so everything was in place for a serious title charge. In the last decade, the club had been a paragon of consistency with eleven consecutive top-seven finishes in the Southern League. However, the 1963/64 season had finished like all the others with a local newspaper remarking that “as far as Southern League honours are concerned it seems Weymouth must always be the bridesmaid and never the bride”… But all that was about to change…

The first game that season actually ended in an away defeat but the Terras soon clicked into gear in late August, registering a 4-0 win at home against Nuneaton Borough in front of the biggest league crowd at the ground since local rivals Yeovil had visited twelve months before.

That day the local press remarked that at times the passing was “hasty and inaccurate but there were signs that would be soon eradicated and the side would take some stopping with the new look attack already having struck top form”. The report stated that Dave Camp was “instrumental in the opening goal” and went on to describe that “from a surging run he was sent flying by the opposition and Spratt back-heeled the resulting free-kick to Hutchinson, whose drive from 20 yards altered course off a defender to send the keeper the wrong way”.

However, that good start was soon marked by a major set-back in early September after only three league games…

JC: “I got a nasty leg injury and was out for about twelve weeks. Andy Donnelly took over in goal then and I could not get back into the side but that’s what you’ve got to expect in football!”

RAPIER AND BLUDGEON

Despite the change between the sticks, Weymouth then went on a blistering run of league form, notching up 16 wins, 4 draws and only 3 losses but their rivals kept pace the whole way including Guildford and arch-rivals and reigning champions Yeovil. The Somerset outfit were hot on their heels despite the Terras claiming that all-important derby win over their biggest foes on Boxing Day in front of a crowd of over 5,000. On that day, away at Huish park, it was said Weymouth were “just too good” and on a pitch where it was almost impossible to keep a foothold they were “masters who allowed the ball to do the work, moving slickly and confidently to battle a side who had not lost at home in nearly two years”. The game brilliantly summed up as a “classic battle between rapier and bludgeon”.

DC: “We had a team that picked itself every week, we knew how we had to play. There was some fantastically fit players and those that could put their boot in, it was a balance. I was a runner, I was doing all the running. Bob Forrest [inside forward] and Cliff Nugent [winger] were great friends. Bob was from the North East, knew Jack Charlton and every summer he would have his summer holiday in Bob’s guest house on the promenade. Bob was a gentleman off the park but not on it. I just met some beautiful people. It was six years of floating, waiting for it all to go wrong.”

And it did go wrong for the team at least in the New Year as a dip in form allowed their rivals to gain ground. By the end of February, Weymouth had suffered consecutive losses for the first time that season and only picked up five points from twelve on offer. Their lead at the top of the table was whittled down to only three points but local reports remained positive, sighting the most recent result was “poor reward for one of Weymouth’s most fighting displays” and hailed a return to scoring from for Hutchinson who had previously gone four games without finding the net.

The sticky patch was ended with four wins from the next five through March with two crucial wins over rivals Guildford and Yeovil, the latter a brilliant 3-0 victory that “swept Weymouth nearer to the elusive Southern Premier League title on a Rec mud-bath”. Yeovil’s shooting was branded “pathetic” and the game was deemed “another success for manager Frank O’Farrell’s tactical plan”.

NERVE-WRACKING PURSUIT

But there was to be another twist in the tale that season despite the squad being bolstered by the inclusion of young Portland defender Rich Hall at the start of April.

RH: “I was there all of that first season but I was only 18 or 19 as an apprentice pro in reserve team playing in the Western League but then there were a few injuries that meant I got properly into the side in the April of that year.”

With the jitters attacking once more, in late April Weymouth were on a run of only one win in six, picking up a measly three points from those games. In scenes reminiscent of 2019-20, the Terras found themselves going from game to game “only” needing a couple of points to clinch the title but could not seem to haul themselves over the line. A defeat at home to Romford was a frustration in their bid to end the “long, nerve-wracking pursuit that has never been theirs” but finally the maths were now simple, one point from either of their final two games would see them home on goal average if not by a clear point or two, depending on other results.

DC: “We did struggle to win the league at the end. We started to drop two or three points, we got beaten in the Southern league cup final and I got dropped for the next league game, the only time I was dropped at Weymouth football club. On the coach on the way back from the final Colin Roberston [forward] asked Frank if we could still drink the champagne we had brought with us for the expected cup win but Frank told him to sit back in his seat and that we would not be drinking champagne for a long time.

“We also knew the sort of things we should be eating before a game but after a loss, Frank would ask us what we’d had for lunch. One time he picked on John Clarke the goalkeeper when he said he’d had chips before the game. He really lost his rag with us.”

JC: “It wasn’t because of the chips – it was known we all had steak and chips before a game back then, it was just I’d had a bad game and I told him so!”

WE WERE BOOED OFF THE PARK

There were now only two games left, just two chances for Weymouth to finally end “weeks of dithering and doubt”.

DC: “We got into a spell where we needed not to lose. I was back in the side but we were so negative, we had lost all our confidence and it’s a game of real confidence.”

First up was a tricky away game at lowly Tonbridge, a team scrapping to avoid relegation at the other end of the table but nerves had now clearly crippled this Weymouth team and any result that day was far from certain with the first half described as “the dreariest 45 minutes of the season”.

It is recorded that “Weymouth owed nippy Dave Camp who made it a match to forget for ex-Eire international full-back Joe Carolan” and that he was “one of the few Weymouth players to hit top form, constantly creating danger for the home side, crowning everything with one magnificently timed tackle to rob the ever-dangerous Kemp as he bore into the penalty area for goal”. The report went on to say that at 1-0 down “Camp teamed up twice with Spratt in a magic 60-second burst. He beat Carolan, eluded left-half Truett’s desperate challenge as he raced for the goalline and Spratt rose to nod in his centre off the post. Less than a minute later they did it again, Camp and Carolan fell together but Camp was up first, sped to the line once more and Spratt hammered in a fierce low drive again off the post”.

Tonbridge went on to equalise again for 2-2 and there were a nervy few minutes for the Terras faithful.

DC: “In the last quarter of an hour we were kicking it to touch!”

But the away side held on to “clinch the title the Terras have so long dreamed of capturing”!

DC: “We were booed off the park. That had never happened to me before!”

THE GIANT GLEAMING CHAMPIONSHIP SHIELD

The home match against Dartford to finish off the season was not a relaxed coronation but they ground out a 2-1 win that ended with the Rec being “engulfed by happy fans who massed, chanting and cheering before the stand as the league president presented the giant, gleaming championship shield to Alex Jackson. They roared their way through speeches by chairman Maurice Sapswoth and Frank O’ Farrell”.

Weymouth ended up scoring 99 league goals that season, a tally they would not exceed until 1997/98. Hutchinson scored 36 of those goals but Spratt weighed in with another 24. The combined total was the highest number of league goals scored by a pair of Weymouth strikers for almost 30 years, a feat never matched again to this day.

Finally, the players could celebrate and were awarded with a civic presentation evening…

DC: “The council decided to buy us blazers and we were invited to the pavilion and presented with them. That was a big celebration night for us.”

JC: “We all shook hands with the mayoress and even though I only played four times that season I still got a plaque, it’s upstairs in the attic I expect.”

Sadly a celebration was the most they could hope for as it was nearly twenty years before automatic promotion to the football league. There was also no national conference football until the late 1980s and although the Southern league provided the vast majority of applicants for division four each year, success stories were vanishingly rare. In theory, the bottom four teams in division four had to reapply for their league place each season but this truly was an “old boys club” with football league clubs voting to save their own skin each summer, even if it meant saving the perennial underachievers and financially stricken over burgeoning non-league sides, many of whom would almost certainly thrive in the world of professionalism. In fact, probably knowing this, Weymouth never applied for promotion that decade.

DC: “There wasn’t an expectancy to go up. It wasn’t on our radar.”

HE WAS GOD TO ME

At the end of that championship-winning season it was all change. Manager Frank O’Farrell left for division four Torquay and took several key players with him. Accounts at the time suggested the club didn’t want Frank to stay as they wanted a player-manager and he had hung up his boots due to injury but the jury is out on that rumour…

DC: “Frank was always going to go to bigger places. I think he went with the blessing of the club and thanks for what he had done. Frank took me to the club. I didn’t know anything about football, honestly. Anything I learnt about football I learnt from Frank O’ Farrell. How to receive a throw-in – how simple is that? It’s not simple, it’s so easy to stop a guy receiving from that throw-in. He taught me little things like that. He was “God” to me. If he had said to me stand on your head for 90 minutes because that’s the best thing to do for the team I’d have done it.”

RH: “It was a good move for him as he was looking to advance himself. There wasn’t any bad blood at all, he had just done well for the club. We had one heck of a team that year. It was a good group of guys and we had a lot of fun together.”

JC: “The rumour was that Frank wanted to sign a contract to stay and the chairman carried it around in his pocket and it never got to Frank. Then he got an offer from Torquay and off he went. There was also a rumour that [forward] Alex Jackson also applied for the job.”

LIKE DAY AND NIGHT

In the summer Stan Charlton came in with great pedigree as a player, having spent most of his career at third division Leyton Orient sandwiching a great couple of years at first division Arsenal. And perhaps it was his playing position as a right-back that would influence his debut managerial role as in his first season Weymouth only conceded 35 league goals, setting a club record for a 42 game season that would stand for four decades. One of his first ideas to ensure fewer goals were conceded pleased some but not all…

JC: “He decided that I was going to take over in goal for a spell and I had much more of a run in the side that year. My wife would come to watch but she had to put up with fans around her shouting “Bring back Andy Donnelly” during the games! I played under Stan until he was getting a load of stick from the directors so he dropped me.”

But I’m one of these people that just take things as they come except when it gets too serious – like later on under Stan when I’d had enough of it and I went on loan up to Minehead although I still trained in Weymouth – I just went there for match days.

I’m one of these people that just turns up, do what I’ve got to do and if somebody wants to talk to me I’ll stand there and listen and if they want an opinion I’ll give it to them and I always say – do you want my answer or the answer you want to listen to and that’s what I do. I’m not bragging but people have always said to me I always want you as a friend because what you see is what you get.

DC: “When Stan [Charlton] came in there were no great promises but he was a legend from his time at Arsenal and then the skipper at Leyton Orient. He was a great guy but he wasn’t a football person like Frank O’ Farrell who was suited to management and could talk to players.

“I worked at AWE [Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment] on Portland and a lot of supporters worked there and on each Monday morning, I had a job to keep them away from my bench! It was lovely and they all seemed to feel they were part of Weymouth football club. They knew how we were going to play, how we were going to take our corner kicks, who used to take throw-ins. It was a whole community. RH: Stan was a different kind of manager. Frank was real strict and although Stan kept us in line he gave us a bit more room to play and with our social lives but he got the work done and got the players to work for him and we had one heck of a season. The contrast between the two managers was like day and night. They had different ways of getting it out of the players.”

A GOOD RAPPORT

In that second championship-winning season, two-thirds of the away trips necessitated going through London and the team made the most of that experience…

RH: “For away trips around the London area we would get on the 7:30 am train and arrive at Waterloo about 11:30 am. Then we would eat there at the Salisbury Rooms and then get another train to go off to the match wherever it was. After the games, we would go somewhere to eat and we would have some cakes and pastries. Alex “Jacko” Jackson would always reserve his favourite pastry before anyone else could touch it by taking out his false teeth and placing them on the one he liked so no one else would want! He was funny, he was crazy.”

JC: “I can remember Jacko used to walk into the restaurant and put his coat on the wall even if there wasn’t a peg and it would just fall on the floor. If challenged he would say “I thought there was a hanger there” and he wouldn’t pick it up, he’d just leave it there until we left.”

But after home games, they had a usual haunt many regularly frequented…

JC: “On Saturdays after home games, a few of us including Bob Forrest and his wife would go to Hotel Rex on the esplanade to have a meal and a few beers. We got to know to the chef who would always give us a good steak. We had a good rapport with all the players. There was never any nastiness amongst any of us.”

And so, despite a change of manager and a wholesale change of players, that rapport helped Weymouth retain the Southern league title in the summer of ’66 with at least two games to spare. The final table shows they only won the title by three points but in truth, it had been a much easier campaign.

At that time, Weymouth became only the ninth team to retain the Southern league title since the league was formed in 1894. And what a summer it must have turned out to be for any English Weymouth fan who would then go on to experience England winning the World Cup less than two months later!

PELE’S SHIRT HANGS IN MY CLOSET

With confidence surging through the side following two seasons of glory, the club embarked on the 1966/67 season with the aim of a hat-trick of titles, only falling short on the very last day of the season. Ironically the opponents that day were Nuneaton, the same team the Terras beat twelve months before to clinch their second title. Alas on this occasion the Warwickshire side were the victors and Weymouth slipped to third in the final reckoning.

After the summer, Stan Charlton cited a drop in the scoring rate in their last few fixtures saying that they had “created a lot of chances without taking them” but he was confident that “with two new forwards [Gordon Fraser from Newport County and Dave Bennett from Cambridge United] he hoped to “correct the defect this season and win many more matches”. Sadly that turned out to not be the case as the Terras actually won one game less. Combined with seven more losses they slipped to 13th that season, their worst showing in 15 years. Fraser only made a handful of appearances but Bennett went on to be a stalwart at the club for several years.

Dave Camp played another season for Weymouth, making over 300 appearances in total for the club before former Weymouth team-mate Bob Forrest coaxed him over the hill to join Dorchester where he had become player-manager. After a couple of years at the Avenue Dave moved back “home” to Portland to play under another former team-mate, Cliff Nugent at Portland United. Dave is now the club president at the New Grove-based outfit.

John Clarke went on to play 550 games for the Terras and moved into coaching when Graham Carr arrived in 1977. Graham asked him if he wanted more of a dual management arrangement but he was happier being an assistant so he could concentrate on coaching although he never got any cut of the transfer fee when players moved on, that all went to the manager.

Rich Hall left in the summer of 1967 for a short spell at AFC Bournemouth before returning to Weymouth for a couple of years but then he had a life-changing move to the US…

RH: “Ron Newman the coach at Dallas Tornado back then knew Stan [Charlton] real well and when I went to live in Washington I had a call from Ron the day after I arrived in the country…I ended up playing for them seven days later! It went really well for me, it was a really good group and we went on to win the league in ‘71. The team was made up of a lot of English players, some of whom had played in non-league. Pele played for Santos at the time and they were due to play an exhibition game against the North American Soccer League All-Stars and even though I’d only played a handful of games for Dallas I got selected for the team. So in a couple of months, I had gone from playing non-league football for Weymouth to playing against Pele and others who had just won the world cup! We played at Soldier Field in Chicago where we got beat 4-3 but what an incredible experience for me. I can remember watching him back in 58’ at the world cup on a tiny TV and 12 years later I was playing against him, still in his prime! I’ll never forget that, it was crazy.

“After I was nationalised a few years later I played four or five times for the USA national team and a few other games that weren’t recognised [as full caps]. It was a few years later in 76’ that I last played against Pele. I got his shirt that day, it’s hanging up in my closet.”

Rich didn’t just play the game, he also coached at a local high school. He began in 1971 at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas only a year after he came to the US, the Dallas players at the time encouraged to coach to build a fan base for the sport in the country. He remained as the coach for over 30 years, amassing over 500 wins and 15 Southwest Conference titles and is affectionately known by alumni simply as “Coach” Hall.

“Coming from a small place like Portland to a different country playing with guys from all over the world it’s amazing who you meet and you get a broader awakening of the world and it’s really helped me to see the world from a different perspective. It’s been a good journey, it really has…”