The meeting between the Saints and Cambridge City at Clarence Park in the F.A. Cup on 16th September 2017 comes 56 years after the two clubs first met in the FA Cup and the standing of the two ‘City’ clubs could hardly be further removed from where they were on 9th September 1961.
Playing under the name of Cambridge Town for just over 40 years our visitors, in keeping with Cambridge being granted city status in 1951, changed their name to Cambridge City. By the time that they visited Clarence Park in 1961 Cambridge had joined the Southern League and were a professional club, where as St Albans were still amateur.
Cambridge City, from goalkeeper to centre-forward, had amassed an impressive array of talent that boasted an incredible number of Football League appearances. The man between the sticks, Brian Harvey, had played 86 league games for Newcastle United and later played for Blackpool and Northampton Town. Jeff Suddards made 327 appearances for Braford Park Avenue. Eire international, Johnny Gavin, seven caps, played for Tottenham Hotspur (32 league games), Norwich City (312), Watford (43) and Crystal Palace (66). And so the list goes on; Sammy Salt; Blackpool (18), Reg Pearce; Luton Town (75), Sunderland (61) and Peterborough United (28). Brian Moore; West Ham United (9), George Cummins; Everton (24), Luton Town (184), Hull City (21) and capped 19 times by Eire. Jim Maddison; Darlington (41), Grimsby Town (272), Chesterfield (98) and Middlesbrough (1).
Ironically, one of the men to do most to keep Cambridge in the cup on a hot day at the Park was one of the more unsung heroes, giant centre-half John Bone who stood in for the injured Jim Stapleton. While he held together a frequently stretched back line the game was decided in favour of the visitors by a brace of goals from Banks.
City pulled a goal back 15 minutes from time through Ken Dowler (pictured) following a shot from the angle by Eddie Rolfe that beat Harvey and clipped the crossbar before dropping for Dowler to score his third goal in two games. Derek Christmas, St Albans City Club Historian at this time, described the match as a ‘magnificent game,’ and added, ‘the City are going places.’ We ended the season in ninth place and failed to lift any cups. But the side did play in front of a much larger crowd than attended the Cambridge game when 5,600 saw Enfield win a 3rd Round Amateur Cup replay at the Park.
City went into the Cambridge match without leading goal scorer Brian Nisbet who scored his fourth goal of the season during a 4-2 win at Kingstonian the previous weekend. Nisbet trained with City on the Tuesday but the following day he scored twice for Finchley in an Athenian League match. St Albans had not received Nisbet’s resignation at this time and both clubs selected him for their games at the weekend. City threatened to take the case to the F.A. but a row was averted when Nisbet sat in the stand to watch Finchley’s FA Cup tie at Uxbridge. The Finchley manager at this time was future St Albans boss Sid Prosser.
St Albans, who were seventh in the 16-team Isthmian League at this time while Cambridge City were undefeated after six league games, also had an international in their ranks in the form of Maurice Walby . Centre half-back Walby made two appearances for the England Amateur international team in 1959 whilst with Dunstable. Walby played just three more games for St Albans after the cup defeat before leaving the club after being barracked from the terraces He scored 10 times in 82 games and returned as manager in 1978.
Another international in our side that day, although still awaiting his first cap, was former Beaumont schoolboy Barrie King. The 21-year-old was our only ever-present player in the Isthmian League during 1961-62 and went on to gain five England Amateur caps whilst at Clarence Park . He replaced Walby as captain.
Before arriving at St Albans Cambridge City had already played in front of two crowds of over 6,000 during the early weeks of the season. The FA Cup match attracted 3,500 spectators to the Park. Cambridge had asked for the price of admission to be increased from the Saints usual charge of 1s 6d to 2s 6d. St Albans rejected the request and were supported by the F.A. in charging their usual fee. There was an additional charge of 1s 3d for a seat in the stand. At this time the main stand could hold 1,000 spectators and Cambridge City were entitled to a minimum 250 seats.
After beating Vauxhall Motors (Luton) 7-0 in the next Round Cambridge City bowed out in the 3rd Qualifying Round with a surprise 2-1 defeat at Hitchin Town with one-time Saint Terry Waldock heading the winning goal.
St Albans City: F.Cavener, P.Clarke, F.Lawson, B.King, M.Walby, T.King, E.Rolfe, B.Lees, J.Chappell, R.Ayres, K.Dowler.
Cambridge City: B.Harvey, G.Suddards, D.Jones, S.Salt, J.Bone, R.Pearce, J.Gavin, B.Moore, A.Banks, G.Cummins, J.Maddison.
Referee: E.Thurley (Luton).