The news that popular player-coach Douggie Webb had returned to Reading to look after their youth team was disapointing, but his place was taken by Paul Birdseye a versatile defender who had been on the fringe of the England Amateur side as a Wycombe Wanderers player and was working in the area as an estate agent.
Three friends from my Royal Air Force days who were stationed nearby, also signed for the club. John Lamb had enjoyed six years of Isthmian football with Oxford City and St Albans City and, with John Parkin and Norman Hudson, were current R.A.F. players while Lambourn based Jackie Aldridge also joined us. He was a winger with a great local reputation who had played an important part in Alton Town's exciting F.A.Cup run the previous season when they had eventually lost to Newport County.
Two other new faces were Alan Trump a young goalkeeper from Devon who had moved to the area and Roy Barry a local goalscorer who had impressed in a pre-season friendly. Trump went on to become a very successful businessman and chairman of Exeter City many years later.
A pre season invitation to take part in Redhill's third annual Six-a-Side tournament got the club off to a great start, as a squad containing, Lamb. Parkin, Trump and Aldridge plus Sid Webb, Norman Matthews, Colin Moyle and Bob Ponsford won the final after a 1-1 draw with hosts Redhill F.C. by forcing most corners. Other victories had been achieved over Dormansland F.C. 3-0, Carshalton Athletic 4-0, Sidley United 1-0, Ford United 3-1, Redhill Youth 4-1 and holders Molesey 2-1. Jackie Aldridge being the "Player of the Tournament'
My work in charge of the football sponsorship with Rothmans could sometimes be useful to the club and we were proud to sponsor the first ever Hellenic League 6-a-side tournament which Hungerford Town also managed to win with group victories over Abingdon United (4-0), Oxford City (4-1) plus a 1-2 defeat by Pinehurst. Then 2-0 v Chipping Norton, 2-0 v Pinehurst and 2-0 v Thame United in the final with goals from Aldridge and Dinham.
The club had applied to enter the F.A.Cup for the first time and were accepted with an exciting first ever tie against Trowbridge Town, a successful Southern League club at the time. Pre - season friendlies brought visits from Kingstonian and Weymouth and a trip to Dulwich Hamlet and as can be seen from the players in the photo we understandably hoped for a successful season.
Holidays and injuries appeared to weaken my early season team selection but after a disappointing defeat at home to Bicester the team settled down and Rod Oland was welcomed back in goal after his spell at Bath City. I was very unwise to tell the press we would still win the championship "as the top four behind champions Witney Town-Clanfield, ourselves, Wallingford and Didcot Town had all lost their first league fixture!'
By the time we were due to play the much discussed F.A.Cup tie we had managed three wins but suffered four defeats - definately not championship form! However, an attendance of 324 and a sparkling performance lifted spirits and Jackie Aldridge's excellent goal equalised an early strike from the visitors and it took a brilliant save by visiting goalkeeper Bob Wilshire to earn his side a replay.
The replay was fun for all of us. Trowbridge Town were a successful non-league club at the time and were soon to become founder members of The Alliance (now the Conference or Blue Square Premier). Their biggest crowd of the season -975- really enjoyed a superb cup tie which unfortunately we lost. (Both reports enclosd)
We also lost away to M.G.Athletic, an Hellenic Division One outfit in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup. Skipper Paul Birdseye didn't want to be cup tied as Wycombe wanted him back, and our season suddenly seemed a little flat.
It could have been even worse with an away F.A.Amateur Cup tie at neighbours Newbury Town but a 3-1 victory raised our hopes and with new signings Chris Munday, fresh from a trial with Swindon Town, Bob Pearce a Wiltshire County defender plus Vic Pye and striker Chris Josey, two experienced players from Thatcham, perhaps we could still manage a challenge for league honours.
We had a large playing squad but perhaps it wasn't very sensible to select just those who turned up for training.
Jackie Aldridge had returned to Alton Town after losing his place, Wycombe Wanderers had asked Paul Birdseye to return despite the fact he was working in Newbury and David Ingram felt that regular training might be difficult as he was committed to Lambourn on Sundays and would also return to them for Saturday fixtures. Sid Webb had been snapped up by Trowbridge after his fine performances in the F.A.Cup and County Youth player Arnold Andrews had interested Bristol City.
Hungerford Town had not produced the results of which their quality players were surely capable and it was obviously the manager's rsponsibility! Our Amateur Cup run finished abruptly at Devizes and the only little bit of good news was the selection of Rod Oland, John Lamb and David Watts for the Hellenic League to play in their Rothmans Representative games and the fact that the Reserves were top of the Hellenic Reserve Section.
My work with Rothmans was proving thoroughly worthwhile and the club entered the spirit of the sponsorship by completing two thirds of the season without a booking or a dismissal. The week after winning a league game by three goals and receiving a bonus, the vital match against league favourites Moreton Town in Gloucestershire brought this comment in "The Newbury Weekly News' " Neither side has dropped a point for a "booking' or a "dismissal' in the Rothmans sportsmanship table and this match was played in the finest spirit. Hungerford's only reward was the knowledge that they had contributed much to a fine match and that they will win many games with this kind of spirit.'
The trip to Moreton was made in the Rothmans luxury coach which had facilities for providing meals plus stereo tape, recorder, radio and portable television which in 1974 was a bit special. Unfortunately the coach broke down on three cccasions and the company supplying it for Rothmans didn't service it properly which made the situation very embarrassing for me!
At the half way stage we were in seventh place, ten points behind leaders Clanfield who were challenged by Moreton Town and Didcot Town, but consistency still proved difficult to achieve. As a manager I seemed to able to attract some fine talant and it was good to welcome Peter Bywaters a renowned local goalscorer who joined Chris Josey in the strike force and Duggie Webb returned for the visit to Didcot who were enjoying a sixteen game unbeaten run. But I failed to provide a team capable of mounting a serious and consistent challenge. A fine 3-2 away victory at Didcot was followed by three defeats!
An interesting experiment with Sunday Morning League matches, forced through the country's shortened working week during national power problems, proved a success at Hungerford when a 350 attendance watched league leaders Clanfield win 3-1.
Chairman Ron Tarry and a hard working committee plus Bob Ponsford who was creating an excellent happy atmosphere in the club house and a fine playing surface for the players to enjoy, all added up to steady improvement in the club but our application to join The Athenian League was probably made before we were fully prepared and it was politely turned down. Hungerford Town were placed fifth out of the twelve applicants behind Egham Town, Epping, Willesden and Littlehampton all of whom had floodlights.
Hungerford Town had still avoided upsetting any referees and had yet to receive a caution before their twenty second league match away at Pinehurst when one of the linesmen failed to turn up. After a twelve minute delay, Ron Tarry was accepted as a substituite on the line and the game kicked off. Skipper John Lamb became the first Hungerford player to be booked when he was adjudged to have kicked the ball away and then, when linesman Tarry gave a throw-in to Pinehurst, centre forward David Watts said with a smile "don't be silly Ron' and was booked, and then sent off for dissent, by the over officious referee who was attempting to protect his volunteer linesman!
This meant the club had lost valuable Rothmans sportsmanship points and of course Watts would probably be suspened. His situation was even more ironical as he had turned down a Wembley ticket that day to see his beloved Wolves play in the Football League Cup Final, in a bid to help Hungerford gain valuable points. At least he scored the goal in the 1-1 draw!
While the first team were struggling to make an impact on the leaders in the Hellenic Premier Divison, The Reserves won their league for the second consecutive season and the strength in depth had never been better at the club, but if progress was to be made, standards would have to rise even higher and extra facilities would be needed.
For an end of season tour to Guernsey, where I had enjoyed a couple of very happy seasons in the mid sixties, we invited George Curtis ,who had captained Coventry City and was later to be their manager, and ex Reading mid fielder Brian Knight from Thame United to act as "guest' players. A 1-0 victory over the Island was followed by a 2-5 defeat against St.Martins after two days of celebrating! But a good time was had by all!
David Watts had also been selected to tour with a Rothmans sponsored squad in Zambia. The cigarette company had helped the Hellenic League and sponsored the Isthmians in1973-1974, but for the next campaign the Western, Northern and Hellenic leagues would officially join the Rothmans family alongside the Isthmian League. Sadly, due to a late political problem the Zambian tour never took place but a lot of exciting developments were to be enjoyed in the coming years.
Having finished in our best ever third place in 1972-73 it was disapointing not to improve, especially as some excellent players had joined the club. Non-League football was changing very quickly and clubs with the best facilities and a little extra financial incentives would attract the players in the future. Perhaps my job with Rothmans wasn't really allowing me to concentrate enough on local problems but it was certainly going to be an exciting time ahead for all those who could make the effort.
Ron Tarry and his committee were certainly keen for the club to keep up, if not lead, in a bid to bring better standards of non-league football to the western outposts of Berkshire!
Immediately after the club was formed in 1886, there were no organised leagues or cup competitions and there were only friendly matches, indeed the first record of participation in a trophy was the Newbury Challenge Cup, the famous Graystone Cup, and in 1901/02 Hungerford reached the final, where they lost 2-0 to Newbury, but in 1904/05, we were the winners, defeating Newbury Union Jack 2-1 in the final, our first recorded trophy.
For several years, the club took part in the Hungerford League and then entered the Newbury League after its formation in 1909, the Hungerford League having been disbanded in 1912..The trophy, now well over 100 years old, subsequently became the trophy for the Hungerford Cup.This remained a popular competition until well after World War 2, but the entries gradually fell away and we defeated Newbury Town in the last final to be played,traditionally at Hungerford. and the trophy is rtill in our possessiion.
In 1909 we defeated Thatcham 2-1 in the final of the Newbury Challenge Cup. whilst we were champions of the Newbury in 1912/13, and retained the trophy the following year.
All competitive football ceased during World War 1, but re-started in 1919, when there was obviously an influx of new players, and they were immediately successful, winning the league in 1919/20 and again in 1921/22, with the resreves proviong equally strong, winning the Newbury League Division 2 in 1921/22.
It is interesting that the team included many names still familiar in the town, Messrs. New,Wells, Bailey,Huntley,Rolfe,Walter, Bull, and Cox.It also marks the appearance of some players later to be famous in local football; Rev.Denning, kown as "the old man" who was the driving force, and benefactor of the club, along with his sons, for many years.Two other players were "Sonner" and Jack North a family which was to play a signifcant role in Hungerford football.
The other famous name is that of Bill Champ, who captained the club, later became a referee, and then a prominent figure in Berks & Bucks football administration.