Stockport County v SV Hamburg- 10 May 1966
May 10, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of, arguably, the most prestigious friendly game played at Edgeley Park, when County took on West Germany’s world-famous SV Hamburg.
Despite County finishing bottom of the Fourth Division the previous season, FSV Frankfurt had already graced EP and, during the summer of 1965, County had embarked on an ambitious three-game tour of Germany, which included a return game in Frankfurt.
County’s relationship with West Germany was linked directly to the Hatters’ General Manager, the legendary German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann.
|County on tour 1965 style.|
Even allowing for Trautmann’s reputation in his homeland, though, the arrival of Hamburg in SK3 was considered a real coup – their previous visit to England five years earlier had seen them take on Burnley in the European Cup quarter-finals where the Germans triumphed over two legs before narrowly losing to Barcelona in the semis.
The West German national side actually had a game against Northern Ireland three days before the County game, and the Hatters arranged for the three Hamburg players involved, Uwe Seeler – who scored in the German’s 2-0 win - Willie Schulz and Jurgen Kurbjuhn, to fly from Belfast to Manchester Airport on the Sunday, 24 hours before the rest of their teammates arrived from Germany.
The build up to the game saw a press conference take place at Edgeley Park before a civic reception in honour of the German visitors, hosted by the Mayor, Alderman Vernon Parry, on the Tuesday morning.
Due to a chronic injury list running up to the game County secured the services of four guest players including three from Stoke City, Eric Skeels, John Ritchie and Peter Dobing. The fourth, Blackpool’s John Prentis, actually signed for County the following season.
Ritchie, in fact, had a couple of chances, to put County in front before Seeler opened the scoring with a wonderful goal five minutes before the interval.
What an honour it was for the 6,000 plus crowd to watch the little striker in action. A full international when aged just 17, Seeler won 72 caps for West Germany, scoring 43 goals. Hamburg-born, Uwe resisted many attempts from other European giants to take him away from his beloved-hometown club, and by the time of his retirement in 1972 he had more than 700 appearances to his name, which had yielded more than 550 goals!
He is also one of just two players who have scored at four world cups – the other? The great Brazilian, Pele!
Three-times German Player-of-the-Year, Uwe also captained his country on that unforgettable afternoon at Wembley in July 1966 when England were crowned World Champions.
Seeler added a second goal after the interval, and there were also two goals from Gert Dorfel and another from Pohiachimdt as the Germans turned on the style, a performance described as, “truly world class, the finest exhibition of soccer prowess ever witnessed at Edgeley Park.”
It wasn’t all one-way traffic, though, as the exuberance of Johnny Price and the inimitable soccer craft of Len Allchurch commanded respect from the Hamburg defenders.
And the goal of the night belonged to Len White, surely the greatest of all County players in living memory?
The Stockport Advertiser’s Tom Turton captured the moment perfectly. “Finally, Len White striding onto a ball outside the area hit a shot of international class, a shot so fierce that goalkeeper Horst Schnoor as left standing at the ball went through off the underside of the bar.”
So good was the goal, Seeler said later he would have been proud to score it himself!
County: Fleet (Mulhearn); Prentis, Goodwin, (Clarke), Skeels, Sykes, Shawcross, Allchurch, White, Ritchie, Dobing, Price.
Hamburg: Schnoor; Dieckmann, Kurbjuhn, Schulz, Horst, Krug, Dorfel B. Pohiachimdt, Seeler, Wulf, Dorfel G.
More than 300 people packed the Belgrade Hotel for a post-match banquet that included a host of national journalists and TV celebrities, including many of the Coronation Street cast who regularly visited Edgeley Park when Friday night really was County night during the halcyon GO GO GO County era.
Whilst Trautmann’s connections are, rightly, acknowledged for attracting Hamburg to Edgeley Park, it’s equally true that flamboyant chairman Vic Bernard gorged on the publicity the astonishing friendly created – he even brought a red-coated toastmaster from London for the post-match celebrations!
The overall cost of the Hamburg experience cost County £2,000 – worth £35,000 in today’s money - but, according to Alderman Parry the game was worth every penny.
Speaking at the banquet, the Mayor said: “This was an historic football match for Stockport County. Its value to the local club’s reputation is beyond price.”
Responding for the visitors, Dr Kurt Fischer said: “I think you are a big family and in this family we feel at home.”
The final words, though, belong to the inimitable Bernard. Exuding pride and ambition, he said. “Four years ago they said County were finished. This is not so and we will prove that in 12 months when we get promotion to the Third Division – and then, eventually, to the First Division.”
The incredible Hamburg story doesn’t end here, though. A month ago County secretary, Mark Lockyear, received an email from, Dirk Mansen, the curator of HSV’s museum, asking about the whereabouts of billboard advert promoting the game back in 1966!
Passing the enquiry onto Hatters’ historians, Dirk was delighted to learn the advertisement was alive and well!
County fanatic, Glynn Knowles, who actually followed County on their tour of Germany in 1965, had kept the item safely for more than 40 years until it was displayed in the major exhibition to celebrate County’ 125th anniversary in 2008.
Glynn then decided to generously donate it to the Supporters’ Co-op to help raise funds. The winner of the auction was, unsurprisingly, Ian Lancashire, the font of 1960s knowledge!
With the poster being so fragile it was too risky to take it out of the frame so a visit to club photographer Mike Petch’s studio in Bredbury followed. With the clever use of lighting Mike was able to take a high-quality image without any glare from the glass.
The image was sent to Hamburg where Dirk is in the process of having it printed before going on permanent display in their museum.