Calling in at the Park on 18th April 1949 were French side Haute-Marne, which was a name given to the players of two clubs, St Dizier and Chaumont, who came together for the trip to St Albans.
The French team consisted mainly of players from St Dizier who had recently won the Division d'Honneur of the French League taking the club into the top Division of amateur football in that country.
Haute-Marne, plus a good number of fol lowers and club officials, were in England as guests of Grays Athletic. They arrived at Folkestone on Good Friday and took in a look around Canterbury en-route to Grays before playing their hosts, then members of the Corinthian League, on the Saturday. Grays won the match 6-2.
After a couple of days spent in Grays (a town maybe not quite matching the splendor of Canterbury) the party headed off to St Albans on Easter Monday and were greeted at the Town Hall prior to making their way to Clarence Park for a 3pm kick-off.
The match attracted a good deal of interest around the district with a crowd numbering almost 4,000 seeing St Albans City face overseas opposition at the Park for the first time since Boxing Day 1945 when an Austrian Xl were seen off 8-2.
Prior to the kick-off the two teams lined up for photographs and the playing of the national anthem of both countries. The Mayor of St Dizier, Monsieur R.Laurent, and the Mayor of Chaumont, Monsieur G.Poulard were introduced to the teams along with Mr Andrew T Ralston of the Football Association (he was also secretary to the Isthmian League, the League of which we were members at this time) and various other dignitaries.
The visitors suffered an early blow when Bizouard was involved in a collision that necessitated a stay in the City Hospital of several days while he recovered from concussion. Five minutes after Bizouard left the field St Albans took the lead when Dickie Lucas finished off good approach work by John Smith and Dave Sayers.
City had the match put to bed before half time when Sayers received a short pass from Jack Chappell and fired past St Dizier goalkeeper Thevenin whose performance had been one of the highlights of the afternoon. The speed at which the French played the game caught the eye of the locals but they were found to be shot-shy close to goal.
Sayers was City's top goal scorer in the Isthmian League during 1948-49 and is still the ninth highest goal scorer in our history. He was, however, beaten into second place in all competitions that season by Bill Saunders.
After the game a party of around 100, including both teams, assembled back at the Town Hall with the Haute-Marne players being presented with pewter tankards to commemorate their visit. Other presentations saw the captain of the French team hand his opposite number at St Albans, Gordon Wilkinson, a pennant. The City chairman Alf Hobbs was one of many speakers during the evening and his wife presented a compact to the wives of the Mayors of Chaumont and St Dizier.
At a meeting of the City Committee at the Conservative Club on 25th April it was re ported that Grays Athletic had sent a letter of thanks for making the visit to St Albans such a success. The Essex club also requested our support in their application to join the Isthmian League — they were finally accepted in 1983.
St Albans City S.Sülivan, F.Collings, H.RawIings, J.Smith, G.Wllkinson, E.Hanscombe, J.Sperrin, J.Chappell, D.Sayers, G.Lucas, W.Hussey.
Haute-Marne: Thevenin, Durst, Chilot, Robret, de Vauflery, Montot, Reneaud, Bizouard, Jolly, Albert, Berva.
Referee R. Brace (Ware).