County 64/65 Cup Heroes- Part 4 by Des Hinks
Victories over Wigan Athletic and Grimsby Town had seen the Hatters reach round three where, against all the odds, they performed heroically to force a goalless draw at Third Division leaders, Bristol Rovers.
The replay is regarded as the most emotional, action-packed game ever to be staged at Edgeley Park as County won 3-2 to set up a date against Bill Shankly’s Liverpool in their own Anfield fortress.
In the final instalment of our special four-part series we look back at the two games against the mighty Merseysiders when County were within half-an-hour of producing the biggest FA Cup shock of all time.
County’s Cup exploits had jettisoned them onto a national stage, and they received an invitation from Morecambe Council to prepare for the big game in the Lancashire coastal resort.
Speaking at a Civic Reception held in County’s honour, The Mayor, Councillor John F McHale, said: “Everyone has been willing to do whatever they can to help County beat Liverpool.”
Spare a thought for Mike Eckersall, though. Whilst his teammates were enjoying Morecambe’s local leisure facilities and training at the town’s football ground, Mike, a part-time professional, worked all week before making his own way to Liverpool on the day of the game!
The tremendous media attention was manor from heaven for new chairman Vic Bernard. Asked by one reporter if he felt County would be overawed by playing in front of so many opposition fans, he replied: Don’t you worry about that, I think you’ll find that Kop full of Stockport folk!”
Bernard wasn’t too far off the mark; there were indeed many ‘Stockport folk’ congregated in the sacred part of Anfield as an estimated 11,000 travelling fans had made their way to Merseyside. Three special trains, all hauled by steam locomotives, were backed up by almost 100 coaches, mainly provided by North Western, such prolific carriers of Hatters’ fans throughout the 1960s.
The 51,851 attendance, incidentally, was the biggest in round four and, remains to this day, the biggest to watch County in any competition.
Far from being overawed, County took the game to Liverpool right from the off and, midway through the half, the travelling hordes were rewarded when the Hatters took the lead. Len White played the ball out to Johnny Watt on the right, and, when the cross came in, got his head to the
|That goal....Len White on the ground!|
That White, the Newcastle United legend, was wearing County colours is yet another strange twist of fate along this incredible Cup journey. Midfield general, Frank Beaumont, had picked up a three-game ban, one of which was the Anfield clash. Worried they would travel to Merseyside without their most experienced player, the Hatters paid Huddersfield Town £4,000 to bring the maestro across the Pennines; but for Beaumont’s suspension one of the best-ever County players may never have arrived at Edgeley Park.
When Gordon Milne fired the Reds level after the break Shankly’s men probably felt they’d go on to record a comfortable victory. It didn’t happen. Magnificent County were still asking all the questions and then, 13 minutes from time, Ian Sandiford burst clear and was brought down by Ron Yeats for a blatant penalty. But, just like the 1950 Cup-tie against Liverpool, it wasn’t given. Sandiford may have been guilty of getting up too quickly to get his shot away, which was blocked on the line. White and then Watt saw their follow-ups suffer the same outc
Reporting for the Stockport Advertiser, the inimitable Tom Turton wrote: “This was not the day County forced a draw with Liverpool, rather did Liverpool force a draw with County.
“It was the day when the famous Kop, an amazing, swirling mass of 28,000 people had been stunned into silence, the day where the vociferous cry of ‘County, County, County’, first loyal, then defiant and finally dominant, had taken over.”
Post-match, Vic Bernard pulled
|Ken Mulhearn on action !|
Home tickets were scheduled to go on sale on the Sunday morning. Fans camped out all night, and when the ticket office opened at 10am Hardcastle Road was thronged with thousands of people. There was a three-hour wait to get served. Some 24,000 were lucky. Many others were not.
By the time Wednesday night came around all roads led to Edgeley Park. There were crowds and policemen everywhere. Even the BBC TV cameras turned up!
The pre-match atmosphere was perfectly captured in the Times report: “What an exciting evening it was, misty and cold yet burning with the heat of combat. Long bef
|Trevor Porteous counts the dosh!|
County were then welcomed onto the pitch by, according to the Stockport Advertiser’s front-page report, “the biggest-ear splitting roar since Edgeley Park was built.”
Wearing their now-famous all-red strip for the first time in a domestic game, Liverpool were the dominant force and, although the Hatters had their moments, Shankly’s men won 2-0 with goals from future England World Cup winner Roger Hunt, on 38 and 86 minutes.
Liverpool went on to win the FA Cup for the very first time that season; County, though, were the only side to take the lead against them during their history-making run.
Speaking after lifting the famous trophy Reds’ skipper Ron Yeats said: “Stockport County was the toughest game we had. At one moment I said to myself, ‘my God’ they are going to beat us.”
And, years later, Shankly still remembered a night that will live long in the memory. "We played much better in the replay,” he said. “And I remember there was a terrific atmosphere. Edgeley Park is a tight ground and the crowd was almost spilling on to the pitch all throughout the game."
Strangely, the Hatters couldn’t repeat their Cup form in the League and, despite their best efforts, they couldn’t climb off the bottom of the table.
But that couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm running through the town. Edgeley Park was alive again, and within months Johnny Price and Len Allchurch arrived from First Division clubs to join the GO GO GO COUNTY revolution.
Others followed and, within two years, County swept all before them to lift the Fourth Division title.
It is without question, though, that without the phenomenal efforts of the 1964-65 Cup WarrDes Hinks.iors a glorious era in County history may never have been written.