A look at the golden age of local football in South Shields

Who is the lone policeman in this photo of an England v Ireland schoolboy match?
Who is the lone policeman in this photo of an England v Ireland schoolboy match?

With the good times returning to South Shields as far as football is concerned, here’s another look-back at a “golden age” of local schoolboy soccer.

You will remember ex-town schoolboy player and outside right John Price telling us how he played against Liverpool boys in front of a bumper crowd at Simonside Hall.

Here John reveals more about that memorable match.

“After the record Simonside Hall crowd of 11,000-plus against East Ham, in the sixth round of the English Schools Trophy, there was a police limit of 16,000 for the Liverpool game,” says John.

“This was reduced to 15,500 by the Schools FA.

“The team had lunch at the Royal Hotel, in Shields, and then we were transported to Simonside Hall on a double-decker bus, the teachers downstairs, the team upstairs, waving at the huge crowds making their way to the match.”

A cutting from the Daily Herald, from Saturday March 24, which John has kept, reads: “Ronnie Fenton is the big hope of the biggest game South Shields have ever seen.

“Yesterday Charles Coulson (our coach) was a hunted man. Those 15,500 tickets for the Simonside Hall ground were not nearly enough for all the people who want to see the clash between a so-far irresistible force and a hitherto immovable object.

“The irresistible force is the South Shields forward line. They have not scored less than three goals in any game this season. The immovable object is the Liverpool defence. They have not conceded a goal on their way to the last eight.”

“Unfortunately,” says John, “the immovable force won, and we lost three nil. Liverpool went on to win the trophy without conceding a goal.”

John said the match report headline was “Shields boys’ gallant bid fails. Lancashire lads were too powerful”.

A match report at the time said: “There was still plenty of spirit in the Shields side but the large crowd must have been disappointed at their performance” – something which John acknowledges.

“I think we were outplayed, and the feeling of disappointment lasted for weeks,” he concedes.

“For a 15-year-old kid, though, the experience of our cup run was fantastic. It involved my first time on a sleeper train (to London for the East Ham match) first time in a hotel, first meal out (at the Sea Hotel) and the first visit to a show (at the Theatre).”

Mr GB Simpson also got in touch to say: “You brought back good memories of South Shields Boys Football Club of the 1950s.

“I remember the game against Liverpool, which we lost.

“I remember two players in particular, Ronnie Fenton and Brian Talbot, both went on to greater things.

“I believe Brian went on to play for Burnley, though I’m not quite sure who Ronnie played for, he may have also went to play for Burnley.

“I think he went on to play for a number of league teams, and became assistant manager at Derby.

“Could you please try to find out what happened to them?”

So if anyone can help answer Mr Simpson’s question then they should get in touch.

Meanwhile, just look at the size of the crowd in the picture of another match played at Simonside Hall. Played in May 1968, it featured England Schoolboys versus Ireland Schoolboys, which England went on to win 3-2. Were you there?

What do you remember about the match and the players taking part?

It is clear from the photo that a lot of young lads were in the crowd to watch the international, along with dads and grandads. A couple of them are reading match day programmes. I wonder how much they paid for one?
Do you still have your copy?

Perhaps you are a keen collector of football programmes. How do the programmes from these and other amateur matches rate when compared with those sold at professional games?

What is the rarest programme in your collection or indeed, the one you enjoy reading the most?

Please drop me a line with a list of your “wants” list, I’d love to hear from you.