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Memories of 66 by John Richardson
Memories of '66
FA Challenge Cup 1st Round Proper Hendon v Reading
Saturday, 26th November, 1966.
Nineteen sixty six has always been known as the golden year of English football and
Wembley Stadium was the venue of the greatest day in English football history. On that day, Saturday, 30th July 1966, captain Bobby Moore held aloft the Jules Rimet trophy to proclaim England champions of the World.
Nineteen sixty six was also a good year for Hendon Football Club, three months before England's triumph over West Germany, Hendon appeared at the national stadium in the final of the FA Amateur Cup.
Although Hendon lost the final 3-1 in front of a 45,000 crowd to near neighbours Wealdstone, they had already been rewarded to automatic entry into the following seasons FA Challenge Cup 1st Round Proper. FA competition rules granted the two FA Amateur cup finalists exemption from the qualifying rounds of the following season's FA Challenge Cup.
Hendon started the 1966-67 season on the crest of a wave having been to Wembley in the FA Amateur cup final the previous two seasons and now they had the luxury of knowing they were again in the hat for the FA Cup First Round draw.
After the fourth qualifying matches had been played Hendon went into the draw with the Football League third and fourth division clubs together with the non league qualifiers. The draw was made as usual at Monday lunchtime. There was an anxious wait for the first editions of the London evening papers. Would they draw a big one ? Last season's draw at the same stage had been unkind with an away tie at Midland League Grantham.
Then the exciting news broke. YES it was good news, a home tie against Third Division high fliers Reading.
This was really a 'Big Draw', only once before in 1952 against Northampton Town had Hendon entertained a Third Division side in the FA Cup.
Hendon immediately announced the match would be 'All Ticket' with terrace tickets at 4 shillings (20p) and a limited number of stand tickets at 7 shillings (35p).
There was much anticipation regarding the expected attendance. A crowd of 5,489 had tested the capacity of the Claremont Road ground the previous February for an FA Amateur Cup quarter final tie against Wycombe Wanderers.
Would this match draw an even higher attendance?
Walking to the ground from West Hendon on the day of the match I remember the AA had put their yellow traffic direction signs at Staples Corner, 'Hendon FC left at lights'. If there was any doubt everyone knew there was a big match on this afternoon.
Hendon had a large fan base from West Hendon and there was quite a trickle of people walking up Brent Terrace all bound for Claremont Road, as no one in their right mind would want to visit Brent Terrace with its' breakers yards guarded by fierce dogs and a rubbish incinerator with endless lorries going to and throw. It was always good to reach the calm of the Cltterhouse estate from here you could hear the public address system broadcast from the one tall loud speaker at the Cricklewood end of the ground.
Arriving at the ground before 2.30 pm I remember ticket holders being ushered in through the large exit gate from the car park and cash admission was being taken through the turnstiles.
We took our places four or five steps up from the front to the right of the goal at the Cricklewood end.
The vocal Reading fans with their blue flags and banner were already camped on the covered side terrace officially known as the Gordon Raymond Stand. They probably chose to stand there because they were use to standing in a covered side terrace at their own Elm Park ground.
The ground began filling up in the minutes leading to kick off. In the event, although
Reading had brought a large following they had brought nowhere near the amount that Wycombe had brought. This meant that Hendon fans were clearly dominate in the crowd, while against Wycombe, the Buckinghamshire fans had taken over Claremont Road.
This official attendance was set at 4,050 this was second highest attendance I had been in at Claremont Road. I believe only the 1952 Northampton Town FA Cup attendance can beat the Wycombe and Reading figures.
As the Hendon team took the field the Hendon signature tune 'Wheels' was played and we sang the new Hendon FC song from our sheets distributed with the programme, ''We're the greens, the boys from Hendon, we win cups and we defend them".
Well, we sang the first verse and then an almighty chant of HENDON! HENDON!
rang out from the green and white scarfed supporters banked on the Cricklewood terrace. The atmosphere was tremendous as Hendon kicked off attacking the Cricklewood end.
Although my school boy memory of the actual game is now a little hazy forty seven years on. I do remember Hendon attacking in the early stages with Danny Lakey launching himself with a horizontal dive to try to connect with a cross into the Reading goal area. Then there was a great chance when Tony Harding had a point blank header brilliantly saved by the Reading keeper.
The professionalism of Reading began to take control and they rushed into a two goal lead. Hendon were not dispirited and John Swannell was at his very best when he tipped over the cross bar a vicious dipping free kick which I think was taken by Reading's star centre forward Pat Terry.
When Reading scored their third goal the Hendon supporters applauded a well taken goal mirroring the Kop at Anfield by appreciating good football.
Half time came and we changed ends. It took the best part of the ten minutes of half time to reach the far end weaving through the thick crowd. Passing the Reading fans on the way there was no more then good humoured banter. This was still the golden age of English football, the dark ages were yet to come.
In the second half the Hendon fans were packed more tightly in the narrow confines
of the North Circular end terrace.
Eric Wilby the peanut seller still walked through the crowd with his cry, " Fresh Roasted Peanuts" and latter on a newspaper seller yelled, "Classified half time results".
Hendon pushed Reading back for most of the second half and when centre half John Ashworth the king pin of Hendon's defence moved up in support and hammered in Hendon's consolation goal, a goal they truly deserved, the Hendon fans responded with the loudest cheer of the afternoon as a green streamer sailed from the back of the terrace on to the roof of the net.
At the final whistle the Hendon supporters went home satisfied that their team had done well against a good third division team which went on to only just miss out on promotion to division two.
On the one and half mile walk back to West Hendon we were able to reflect on a fine game of football and look forward to a more realistic route to Wembley, the FA Amateur cup. Would it be three years in a row for Hendon ?
If it was a good omen the guard dogs looked happy as we passed or maybe they had just been fed!
Feel free to add
If anyone was at this game then please feel free to add your memories to this thread.
West Hendon to Claremont Road
I wasn't at this game but I do have many memories of walking to the ground from West Hendon.
Living in Kingsbury, my journey consisted of a bus to West Hendon and then a walk past the floral clock down to Staples Corner. Being terrified of the ferocious dogs in the scrap yard, my friends and I would take the long route past the dog track before crossing the North Circular on the footbridge and then walking to the ground with the crowds of people streaming up Claremont Road and across the Clitterhouse playing fields.
Only at the end of the game with so many people leaving the ground at the same time and believing there was safety in numbers, would we summon up the courage to join the large number of fans returning home via Brent Terrace and the scrap yard with its hounds from hell. Once back in West Hendon we would then catch the bus back to Kingsbury, usually fortified by a bag of chips or a pasty from the New Era Fish Bar on the corner of Station Road.
Hendon FC @ Wembley - If the future looks bleak, relive the past