I had the distinction of being the first of the School’s 1955 intake to get the slipper from Dick Fry. I think it was timed at about 15 minutes into the first lesson. I had very modest academic achievements (none in fact) and, apart from being able to turn ‘off breaks’ prodigiously on the matting wickets in the nets and my progression to the Wood House football team in my final year, very few sporting achievements.
Although I did manage to finish second in the half mile race in the school sports. When the master handed out my number he laughed. ‘You haven’t got much of a chance, have you?’ He sneered. Given my previous sporting track record I could see his point. I was up against a 6′ 2″ Ivor Tanfield, plus Roy Staddart and Tony Barrance from the school football team. Nevertheless, that snide remark served only to further my resolve. Getting that second place, I was never going to catch Ivor – he finished about 200 yards in front of me, was probably the most satisfying moment of my entire four years at the school. I actually got a begrudging ‘Well done’ when I reported back to the desk with my number.
I grew up living just over the road to Brian Skingley, who went to Bristol Rovers, QPR and Crystal Palace before making a name for himself, and a few FA Cup giant killing headlines, with Gravesend and later with Romford. Whenever he came home to visit his mum he used to kick about in the street with us. He was a local hero to us younger boys. I also saw Roy Goulden play for Arsenal’s Youth team at West Ham.
One personal memory I’d like to share is regarding Stan Frankland. In my first year at Mayfield I went to Stan and asked him for permission to use the school football field for a first year inter-class match. He not only arranged for the pitch but provided the kit and refereed the game himself. I just about managed to get into the Wood house team, and to a second trial for the school team. But usually the only way I could get a game was to organise it myself, and I’m still doing it at 65. In September I got a team of ex-pros together for a match and raised over £1,200 for charity.
In my second or third year I was one of four students designated as possible GCE Art candidates, along with Howard Barnes, now living in Cornwall as a retired teacher and full time director of a Christian Missionary organisation involved in Africa, Dave Moorcraft and someone else whose name has completely escaped me.
‘Pal’ Moorcraft and the one I can’t remember locked me in the Art Room store one day, in the middle of class, and I responded by putting my foot through the inner panel of the door. That hole was still in the door the day I left, but I don’t think anyone other than us four ever knew who did it.
On Friday 4 May, 1956 Mr. Hicks announced at the morning assembly that an old school boy, Len Boyd, would be captaining Birmingham City in the FA Cup final against Manchester City the following day. Len has quite a sizeable entry on Wickipedia and though he is said to have played for Ilford as a youth the entry lists West Ham schools as his representative honours. However, I certainly have no reason to doubt Mr. Hicks and I do know for certain that Len had Ilford connections as I have a photo of him stood alongside his old Ad Astra FC teammates. Ad Astra was an Ilford based team and two players on the photo, Bill Butler and Roger Meadows went on to play regularly for Ilford. I also know that this side was Ilford based by virtue of the fact that my great uncle Tom is stood at the other end of the line from Len! Presumably Len finished his senior schooling at Mayfield – hence the subsequent Ilford connections.
After leaving school at 15 I worked as a general clerk in London, moved north to Cheshire and worked as a trainee office manager, started training as a psychiatric nurse and completed that in Yorkshire, then went into Further Education. Despite all that I found myself unemployed, started some freelance football writing and finished up working on the Yorkshire Evening Post Sports Desk. Subsequently I went back into nursing, in dementia care, and I am still at it – while training to be a Dementia Care Trainer and still dabbling in free lance writing.
During my time writing for the Football Monthly I persuaded them to introduce a ‘Youth Football’ page and I was able to contact Stan Frankland and interview him about the myriad of pro footballers – including Sir Trevor Brooking – who passed through his hands as coach of Ilford and Essex boys. Stan was also a talented amateur player before the war and played alongside England’s World Cup winning manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, for Elm Park.