These photographs were taken at the start of the 1969/70 season as Chester prepared for their 12th season in Division 4. As the longest serving member of the league, alongside Aldershot, there was the usual degree of optimism that this would be Chester’s year as Ken Roberts’ started his second full campaign in charge. Roberts had gradually transformed the side and only four players, Terry Carling, Barry Ashworth, Mike Sutton and Graham Turner remained from when he had been appointed manager in February 1968. It was also the second season of the all sky blue kit which gave a fresh look to the team, evident from the pictures.
Although Roberts had been unable to prevent another application for re-election in 1967/68 there had been an improvement the following year with a 14th placed finish and this continued into the 1969/70 season as Chester ended the campaign in a comfortable 11th position. However it was cup competitions where the team excelled and they reached the 4th Round of the FA Cup for the first time since 1948 after victories over Third Division Halifax Town and Doncaster Rovers followed by Second Division Bristol City. The run was halted when an injury ridden team was beaten 4-2 at Swindon Town. Meanwhile there was another appearance in the Welsh Cup Final where they were beaten by Cardiff City over two games.
The first photograph shows captain Cliff Sear emerging from the tunnel of the old wooden stand followed by Terry Carling, Roy Chapman and Mike Sutton. Sear, a former Wales international and Manchester City full back, had signed the previous season and went on to have a long association with the club that continued until 1987. As well as a reluctant spell as manager at the start of the 1982/83 campaign he had two spells as caretaker manager but will be best remembered for his work with the youth team which included the development of Ian Rush.
In the second photograph Ken Roberts is shown welcoming his four new signings to Sealand Road. Terry Bradbury, a former England schoolboy international, joined from Wrexham while Albert Harley was a local lad who had previously been with Stockport County. The experienced 35 year old Roy Chapman had made his Football League debut with First Division Aston Villa as long ago as 1953 and scored nearly 200 league goals. His Chester career started with a brace in a 3-2 win over Scunthorpe United but by October he had moved on to become player-manager at Stafford Rangers. The fourth player, Keith Webber, also features in the picture below and was bought from Doncaster Rovers.
The Cardiff born inside forward had started his career with Barry Town before signing for Everton where he made a goalscoring debut in a 3-1 League Cup win over Walsall. A stocky player, he managed only four First Division appearances at Goodison Park before moving to Brighton in 1963, where his exceptional pace proved an asset. A spell with Wrexham was followed by a move to Doncaster in 1966 and after coming to Sealand Road he managed 14 goals in 74 Football League games as well as scoring one of the goals in the 2-1 giant-killing of Bristol City. In 1971 he joined Stockport County and also played non-league football for Morecambe, Northwich Victoria, Oswestry Town and Rhyl. He was later licensee at the Grosvenor Arms in Handbridge but sadly died of a heart attack in September 1983 at the early age of 40.
Chester started their second season at the Moss Rose in Macclesfield with a home game against Fulham. The Blues gave debuts to veteran goalkeeper Barry Siddall and former Manchester United and Scotland defender Arthur Albiston but the big news was the return of Stuart Rimmer who rejoined the club from Barnsley for a record £94,000. The signing was a major boost for supporters who were growing increasingly despondent about the lack of progress on the new ground and Rimmer received a rapturous reception.
Although the returning hero failed to get on the scoresheet Chester won the game 2-0 with goals from Chris Lightfoot and Gary Bennett.
The Chester Chronicle photograph shows Harry McNally walking off the pitch at the end of the game receiving some advice from a supporter. Out of interest does anyone know the identity of the supporter?
Behind, and to the right of the manager, is the legendary Barry Butler who had been substituted earlier in the game. The utility man played in every position for the club, including replacement goalkeeper, and his conversion to a centre forward in the second half of the season went a long way to saving City from relegation.
Further in the background is the old Moss Rose pub which has now been demolished and to the right is the temporary portakabin that was used as a police control centre.
While sorting through some newspaper cuttings recently I came across a team photograph of a Guilden Sutton team in the 1964/65 season. At the time they were playing in Section A of the Chester and District League. Alongside the picture was a small paragraph which grabbed my attention. Although it only indirectly references Chester I thought it made a good story.
The team photo included a friend of mine, Pat Bradley, so I asked him if he remembered this incident and he had very distinct memories. At the time Guilden Sutton played in a field on Oxen Lane which itself is just off Wicker Lane.
Pat recalls: “We were just about to start the game when all of a sudden a battered old van came through the gate at the top of the field. Driving the car was Blaster Bates with the farmer sitting besides him.”
Blaster Bates was an explosives and demolition expert from Crewe who became a national “celebrity” in the 1960s and 1970s telling stories about his demolition business. He recorded a number of live albums and was a guest on Parkinson.
“The van pulled up and he came over and said to us: “You can’t start this game I’ve got to blow up an oak tree in the hedge.” The tree was about 30 yards behind one goal and we stood around watching until he said “Get up over the half way line it will carry up to there.” It only took a couple of minutes to set up and then there was a bang and up went the oak tree. Pieces went everywhere and they almost reached us on the halfway line. They were big chunks as well. There were branches all over the place so the referee got us clearing the pitch, Blaster Bates and the farmer said thank you and disappeared and we continued with the game. It all took less than 10 minutes.”
Welcome to my first blog. I have finally decided to plunge into the world of blogging by writing some self-indulgent historical and statistical articles on aspects of Chester Football Club that interest me. Hopefully fellow supporters will find these articles of interest as well.
I already write a weekly column in the Leader newspaper every Friday as well as an article in the current programme but I wanted to use this blog to cover other aspects of the history in more detail. Over the years I have come across some interesting stories that I have struggled to find an outlet for and this seems an ideal opportunity for some more informal ramblings and features.
By the very nature of a history blog it will mainly concentrate on the old Chester City that was liquidated in 2010 but there will be coverage of the new Chester FC from a statistical point of view and I also intend to write something on the early clubs in Chester that I touched on in the early chapters of 125 Years On the Borderline.
If you are looking for my thoughts on Neil Young’s team selection or why Hednesford are a bigger threat to Chester’s promotion chances than Northwich then I’m afraid this is not the blog for you. The current team is already widely covered elsewhere on websites, forums, Facebook, blogs, twitter and probably lots of other outlets that I haven’t even heard of. I feel that other people are in a much better position to write about the current goings-on than I am. However if you like a bit of nostalgia, obscure stories, pieces of memorabilia, dull statistics and memories of players who played one game in the 1960s then this may peek your interest. Hope you enjoy my postings.