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Where did it all begin ? By Fred Brocklehurst
For me it all started in 1948, I was serving my two years of Natonal Service in the Royal Air Force, mainly based in Bedfordshire, with only infrequent trips home . During the winter months I was attracted to play for a team called City Rangers. They consisted of mainly ex-serviceman, amongst whom was my brother Syd, a centre half in the Dave Ewing mould (pull up at Dave's). They had just been admitted to the newly formed South Manchester Amateur Sunday Football League'and after my release from the R.A.F in January 1950, I was quickly co-erced into becoming the Club Secretary, i,e, dogsbody. This was not new to me as I had been Secretary of both youth teams and R.A.F teams, City Rangers were the whipping boys for the rest of the League, even when a Second Division was created, we rapidly sank to the bottom of that ,and for us not to finish in the bottom two was an achievement to be savoured. In spite of this we had a centre forward who regularly averaged forty goals per season and I usually managed twenty a season from an unaccustomed left wing position. The highlight of my managerial career was to hold the mighty Little Alex 0-0 in a Cup Tie for 80 minutes before we eventually collapsed to 4-1. In those post war days it was not uncommon for crowds of hundreds to watch famous local teams like Elsdon, Clynes, Brookes Bakers, Wythenshawe B.I., and many of their players were playing in the Cheshire League and the Lancashire Combinaton, two of the strongest Non-League set ups in the country. Also, several made the grade to Football League clubs. Playing against these "famous" local teams was a unique experience, even though the results were inevitable.
In the first four years of my Secretaryship, i was delighted that we won the League's Sportmanship Trophy on three occasions and were second once.
At that time Manchester City had an ex-German Prisoner of war goalkeeper, who rapidly became a local favourite, but we emulated them by having our own ex-pow Ernst Zanft, who was quite capable of making Trautmanlike saves, but unfortunately was also guilty of making the occasional glaring error. We played for the sheer love of the game, and the side had many stalwarts, and our supporter in chief and benefactor was Tom Cooper, a plumber from Chorlton.
Playing at Ladybarn Park and Fog Lane Park in those days was a barrel of fun, as invariably we took home half the pitch with us, and only had a bucket of water in which to wash at the end of the game. Since my brother and I took the task of washing the shirts weekly, and this was by hand, our yellow shirts rapidly became "off brownish". Looking back the main consolation was that our clothes were perfectly safe in dressing rooms under the watchful eye of the local parkie. It is a very sad reflection on modern society that there are virtually no dressing rooms in the South Manchester area that are vandal and thief proof.
At the League's AGM, held in June 1950. I was critical of the Match Secretary's efforts to complete the fixtures for the past season. The result was that he resigned and I found myself as the new Match Secretary. At the same time Joe Kennedy was elected as the League Secretary, and its fair to say that we virtually ran the League between us for several seasons. We used to meet daily at lunch times and formulated our plans together.
One of Joe's innovations was to make payment for tickets for League Kances and Cup Finals compulsory, and teams had to pay whether they attended or not. I well recall our very first League Kance, which was held at Chorlton Baths. Apart from the Jay Leslie Band, Management Committee members and their better halves, there were very few others present. Nevertheless, we had a reasonably good eveing contemplating how the League funds would be boosted by the levy onthe various clubs who did not attend. In practical terms it was the only way to manage the League's finances and many other Leagues soon followed suit. I have early memories of playing inter League matches in Sheffield in long trousers, because we were not officially allowed to have proper matches in Sheffield parks on a Sunday. We had a regular inter League match with Leeds Sunday Football League and we always gave a good account of ourselves.
We have played Cup Finals on a wide variety of pitches, which we invariably had to mark out ourselves and on one occasion when we played on the British Driver Harris pitch at Jacksons Boat we physically had to tear up the long grass with our bare hands to ensure that the Final took place. One of our most attractive venues was the Fallowfield Stadium, famous as the home of Manchester Wheelers and later re-named The Harris Stadium after the famous Reg Harris, Manchesters greatest ever cyclist. It was sheer heaven not to have to mark out the pitch, and to have the crowd separated from the pitch by a cycling track. It was our idea of Wembley. The main drawback was there were constant rumours that members of the Lords Day Observant Society would be attending and if we charged an admission fee, we would be prosecuted. We got round this by selling programmes at inflated prices which included admission but we also had to ensure that any person refusing to buy a programme could be admitted free. Fortunately, we survived these scares and had some very successful Finals at many venues.
Halfway through Season 1956-57 the Leagues books were in a terrible state and I was persuaded to take over as Treasurer, a post I held until taking over as County FA Secretary in 1990, leaving the Leagues financial affairs in the capable hands of our current Treasurer, Mike Goldstone. At the same time our stalwart Secretary, Frank Ridings who had taken over from Joe Kennedy also retired to live in Spain. Luckily we were once again fortunate to have a ready-made successor in the present incumbent, John McFadyen. We have some very dedicated Management Committee members over the years and apart from the present Committees, the individuals I remember fondly are John Old, Norman Scott, Harold Heath, Tommy McQuaid, Charlie Addison, most of whom combined the running of very successful teams with Management Duties. Teams that spring to mind are Elsdon, Little Alex, Clynes, The Andrew, Brookes Bakery, Princess, Tamworth, Moss Side BL (The winners of the very first MCFA Sunday Cup, which I was honoured to referee), St. Bernadettes, Whitchurch Villa, Brighton, and of course more recently, the fabulous Astro. At the start of Season 1956-57 our Bank Balance was £353-13-11, the trophy bill was £107-00-00 and the annual registration fee per team was £1-10-00 (or 75p currently).
When Sunday Football was officially recognised by the FA, the Manchester County FA were at first lukewarm in their attitude to us but Altrincham & District FA were far more responsive and as we had several teams from the Wythenshawe and Altrincham Districts, they offered us representation on their District FA. Some of the most notable teams of that era were Bakers Arms, Kearns, Wythenshawe BL, Wythenshaw Labour Club, and Newall Green.
We also gained the services of many Cheshire based referees, some of whom were refereeing in the old Cheshire League and were Football League Linesmen. We are eternally grateful for the early recognition we received from Altrincham FA, which did much to enhance our status.
Our dispute with the Manchester County FA was well documented in our 40th year brochure but I am now able to reveal that a great deal of the behind-the-scenes action on behalf of the League was carried out by the late Peter Swales, Chairman of Manchester City. Since Peter had once run a team in our League with his colleague Noel White, now director of Liverpool FC, I made a discreet approach to him to have the suspension of the League imposed by the MCFA lifted, and he readily agreed.
Life has never been dull serving on the Committee of MASFL, and I have continued to referee in the League throughout my refereeing career, spanning almost 50 years. It has been a labour of love and I am grateful for all the support I have received from my many friends on the past and present Management Committees, referees and players. I sincerely hope that the League will make greater strides and will be just as strong when it achieves its century.