Witness to County History- 3 Rotherham away October 1946

                                                    Millmoor some time later......

My First Away Match – by Alan Edwards
 The Day I Became A Man
Rotherham United v County 19th October 1946
(  as first seen in 2006 in When I Was Young & Lazy)

This was the season when proper league football returned to the British Isles after the break for the Second World War.   It was the first season to see the resurgence in crowds as the country eased its way back to normal after the restrictions of wartime.   A time when it was possible to travel to away grounds once again to support your team.

And so it was here in Stockport.   A crowd of us County supporters, who all worked for the same engineering firm, organised a trip to watch County’s match at Rotherham.   We hired a North Western Road Car Co. bus to take us to the match and also managed to obtain tickets to sit in the small stand at the Millmoor ground.   I went with my chargehand, his elder brother, who had recently been demobbed from the army and worked with us, and their younger brother, who like me was an apprentice at the firm.   It was my first real visit to an away ground as I didn’t count my visits to Spotland, the home of Rochdale, as being really away because half of my extended family come from, and live in, Rochdale so it was just a family get together.   The fellas go to the football and the women go shopping and then all off to someone’s house for tea.   Not a REAL away game.   Same for them when County were the home team.

You might ask why we picked this game.   Well Rotherham were supposed to be a good team and were up top of the league.   Plus we were still at 3 o’clock kick offs.  The clocks were not going back until later in the month.   This meant we could still work Saturday morning as normal before meeting up in Mersey Square for our bus and the 43 mile trip across the Pennines.  

So off we went.   Ted, my charge hand, and his brother on one side of the bus and me and their younger brother across the aisle from them.   This was all very new to me and I didn’t know the drill as it were.   We’d been going along for about half an hour when one of the guys, who’d organised the trip, came down the bus flogging sweep tickets for the scorer of the first County goal.   He said there were 50 tickets at a tanner each so the winner would get 25bob.   Apparently there would be twelve tickets with numbers 0 to 12 on them; the other 38 being blanks.   This was standard practice as I was to learn over the years.   The numbers 1 to 11 being the players shirt numbers and the 0 for no County goal.   (Long before the times of squad numbers and substitutes.)   Me and my young mate were digging in our pants pockets to see if we could scrape up some coppers when I heard Ted say “We’ll have one each and take for one each for the young uns” pointing across to us and giving the guy a half crown.   We dropped our coppers very gratefully back in our pockets said thanks to Ted and each of us drew a slip out of the proffered bag.   We opened the slips and the other three all drew blanks but mine had the number 7 on it.    I got quite excited at this.   I’d drawn a number and it was the outside rights number, so if County did score well it was more likely to be one of the front men who would score.   The organiser put my name alongside the number 7 on his board and went off down the bus.   Once my euphoria had died down I suddenly thought that it was Ted who’d paid for the tickets so I leaned across and offered it to him.   He turned and said, “No you keep it Snowball (my nickname because of my blonde almost white hair at that time) you drew it out.   You can buy us all a pint on the way home though if you win.”   Another point on my learning curve – you stopped at a pub on the way home from an away match.

And so we arrived at Millmoor the home of Rotherham United.   The ground was on a hillside and a bit bleak with the slope being goal to goal.   It was the usual for that period, having a main stand and the other three sides being terraced except for this strange little box like structure opposite the main stand.   It looked a bit like an open-sided signal box with a couple of hundred seats in it.   It was in this little stand that we had our seats.    Later in life, after I had been to the Grand National at Aintree, I realised it reminded me of the little stand at the Canal Turn.   We got ourselves settled and me waiting to know who would be the County number 7.

                                                County pic from 1947-8 season.....
           Just shows how things have changed- one season  after the Rotherham  game and 9 of the
 team out that day  are still in team.......!
                                 Back row : Brown, Gleave, Morris,Bowles, McCulloch, Redfern.
                                 Front row : Staniforth, Earl, Walker, Shaw, Brinton.

The teams were announced and County had the following line-up.   Bowles; Redfern and Buckley; McCulloch, Morris and Brown; Burrows, Walker, Shaw, Wassall and Brinton.   So I had got Arthur Burrows as my player in the sweep.   I did know him because he was a local lad and had gone to the same school as I had and his dad had played for County.   He tended to be what was known as a utility player – meaning he played wherever there was a player short.  There was much muttering as to who this Wassall fella was, until someone came up with the news that he’d been signed from Man United on the Thursday of that week.   This didn’t seem to be good omen as he wouldn’t have had time to meet the rest of his team mates and get to know them.   Remember that most Third Division North players were part time professionals and most had day jobs that weren’t always compatible with playing football.

Things didn’t get much better when the teams came out.   Rotherham won the toss and elected to kick downhill and from the kick off it was all Rotherham.   They played well and if it hadn’t been for some erratic finishing and a brilliant display from Tiger Bowles in our goal it would have been far worse than the one nil deficit at half time.   The goal, which came after 30 minutes was well worked from wing to wing movement before being slotted home giving Tiger no chance at all.   To be quite honest County only had one attempt at attacking during that first half and the United goalkeeper had very little to do.
                                                  The great Tiger Bowles!

The second half was much better thank goodness.   At least County were playing with the slope and apparently had decided to go for broke.   They attacked, attacked and then attacked again giving every bit as good as they had been given in the first half.   Not that Rotherham were lying down, they were pressing too whenever they could which made for some very exciting football.   At last ten minutes from time County scored.   And to my eyes it was the best goal I had ever seen.   It would be wouldn’t it because it was Arthur Burrows, with that Number 7 on his shirt, who had scored with a calm and collected shot.   I leapt up in the air with all the other County fans.   I cheered and shouted myself hoarse and I did a few mental calculations of what I was going to do with my 25bob winnings remembering to take off the price of a round of drinks on the way home.   After all my weekly wages as an apprentice at that time was only nineteen shillings and six pence and that was before stoppages.  So twenty-five shillings was mind-boggling.

But back to the match.   The last ten minutes seemed endless.   Rotherham threw everything at County and in the very last minute with the away fans screaming for the ref to blow for time and the home fan urging on their team on the ball was sent across the County goal onto the head of their centre forward and was in the net.   The 12,000 crowd went wild.   The ref blew for time and that was it.   We’d lost but what a game to remember for a young teenager like me.

“What do you mean is that it?”  

Oh, I know what you’re getting at.   I said at the start it was the day I became a man didn’t I.   Well we stopped at a country pub up on the moors on the way home and I went up to the bar and got them in as Ted had said I would have to if I won the sweep.   And as you all know a young football supporter becomes a man on the day he goes into a pub with his mates after the match, goes up to the bar and gets a round in, and PAYS FOR IT WITH HIS OWN MONEY. (not with the ten bob note his dad or uncle had quietly slipped to him).   So on Saturday 19th October 1946 I became a man!!!

Sorry you lot?   You weren’t expecting something sexy and sordid were you!!!!!!!!!!!

Alan Edwards.


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