‘Uncle’ Eric Whitehouse, bluesman and raconteur, recalls one of his favourite stories about the Cobblers…
“Wooow…ooow!” (www)….the cry goes up from Northampton’s mean streets. A primeval memory of a lost childhood, permeated by that call from round an unlocked kitchen door, from the other side of Kingsley Road, or a “hallo” from a friend echos down the years, bringing back days of yore in my beloved hometown.
I had totally forgotten this greeting which we used daily in the 1940’s and 50’s. It was everywhere, a ubiquitous presence from that time onwards, part of the fabric of our lives……and then it seems to have faded out, leaving only “gooin’ deyn teyn” as a survivor of our own dialect.
Until, that is, ‘www’ turned up in a discussion on social media recently when it became obvious that many people not only remembered it but also still used it. I have to say that ‘www’ is the only expression I have come across which is used only in Northampton, as far as I know (even ‘M’duck’, which we all love is part of colloquial speech in other places).
I find it unsurprising, and indeed heartening, that the “Wooow…ooow” appears to have been taken up by the people in the Cobblers Away Support at Blackburn recently. WE ARE NORTHAMPTON!! NTFC is, of course, a hotbed of Northampton parochialism. Just look at the words to their ‘Fields of Green’ song – who else would know that the Market Square’s cobblestones ‘shake the old dears to the bone’?
Social media sites and Mark Kennedy’s excellent ‘Hotelenders’fanzine are littered with references to The Teyn. The one exception to this flood of Northamptonia is the fans’ ‘Saying Goodbye to his Horse’ song which is frankly unintelligable and if anyone can provide an explanation of the reasoning behind this puzzling ballad, I should be very pleased to hear it.
I’ve followed The Cobblers for 65 years, I worked on the turnstiles at Sixfields and the legendary County Ground. I’ve trudged up and down the country, got in a few scrapes, had a lot of good times and witnessed famous victories and ignominious defeats. I’ve been to Wembley (3 times) and Carlisle and Hartlepool, Torquay, and Canvey Island. I was at Anfield the night, that rainy night, when Abdul Osman silenced The Kop.
Every footie fan has a favourite story and I’m no exception, so I’d like to take you back to those halcyon days when footballs had laces and knocked you out if you tried to head them.
In 1958, I was a 14 year old schoolboy who had a mate who lived round the corner and with whom I cycled to school and with whom I played the latest fave game: ‘Subbuteo Table Soccer’! For those who don’t know this Stoneage form of entertainment, it involves plastic model footballers, which you flicked with your fingers and a green baize pitch. I believe there was a world championship at one time.
Lawrie Hawtin was a member of a famous Northampton sporting family, and his father was manager of the Cobblers Youth Team. Lawrie himself went on to play rugby for The Saints. The day of the match approached and it appeared that Lawrie’s dad was having a problem raising a team to play a match at St John’s School, Tiffield, on the morning of the cup game. A lot of the regulars had cried off to be free to go to the County Ground. Lawrie was pressed into service, as sometimes happened.
The eleven was made up, but as there were no substitutes in those days, there was nobody to carry the bucket and sponge and to be on standby if one of the players was struck by lightning before the game. I volunteered and surreptitiously slipped my boots into my bag – just in case!
Saturday came and at 9.00am we were outside the players entrance at the ground which was still, more or less, deserted. A small coach turned up and the little gang of young men boarded for the wilds of Tiffield. I remember goalkeeper Gary Knibbs, and Terry Basford, Brian Aubern and Brian Ethridge amongst the crew. It rained; we won 8 – 0 and I spent the game on the touchline getting soaked.
We drove back to Northampton and when we got to Abington Avenue we saw a crowd centred around the players entrance waiting for the team to arrive. Ron Hawtin threw open the coach door and the crowd surged forward, autograph books in hands, and then retreated in disappointment when instead of Arsenal’s city slicker stars or The Cobblers earthy, honest journeymen and local boys, they were greeted by a dozen bedraggled teenagers.
We were ushered in via the players entrance into the hallowed territory under the old wooden stand. Tea was everywhere, the men wore Gabardine macs and cloth caps and everyone seemed tp be smoking Woodbines. There was a smell of embrocation and dubbin. We were allowed to go into the dressing rooms where The Cobblers (strangely) had their blue and white kit hanging up and, in the Arsenal room, their change kit in gold and white.
The team’s arrival was imminent and part of our deal was admission to the game, which was sold out with over 20,000 expected. It was decided we should watch the spectacle from the terrace, just behind the home dugout. We were led there via the tunnel and as we came into the daylight a roar went up from the several thousand already in the ground.
Tension built in the next hour as kickoff time neared. Then, to a great roar, the players appeared casually stroking footballs to one another, enjoying their celebrity. “COME ON THE COBBLERS!”
After six minutes the impossible happened. Ken Leek was fouled. Ray Yeoman took the kick and Bobby Tebbutt, from Irchester and only in the team because of an injury to Alan Woan, headed home despite a despairing last ditch attempt by Dave Bowen, captain of ‘The Gunners’ and later to become a legendary Cobblers manager, to prevent the goal.
My dad was on the Hotel End and he said that the old guy behind him went so crazy that he dropped the precious bottle of whisky he has been cuddling (for medicinal purposes only, of course).
To cut a long story short, The Cobblers ran out 3 – 1 winners, one of the biggest cup shocks of all time, at that time. Barry Hawkins swivelled, hooked the ball over his shoulder and made it 2 – 1 and Ken Leek put the seal on the victory. I can still remember that heroic team after all these years and, for my fellow nerds, here it is:- Rag Elvy, Ben Collins, Ron Patterson, Ray Yeomans, Colin Gale, Roly Mills, Jack English, Bobby Tebbutt, Barry Hawking, Ken Leek, and Tommy ‘Flash’ Fowler.
It’s days like that one that help form your life. The Cobblers are still a part of mine and of two generations that follow me, making us four generations supporting ‘ The Teyn’.
The County Ground picture was provided to The Geograph Project by Steve Daniels