York City through the years: Part Two
Backs to front

8 Nov 2012 @ 11.06 am
| Sport
Full back Phil Burrows is presented with the first Billy Fenton Memorial Trophy after being named York City's Clubman of the year in 1974

Lifetime York City fan Christopher Backhouse is picking out his most memorable post-war players. In part two he looks back to the backs


In front of Wojczak, the Polish goalie, stood the redoubtable Jack Pinder. Jack had played for City before the war only retiring in 1948.

Backs in those days rarely, if ever, ventured much further forward than their own penalty area. They all looked the same to my young eyes, stocky, strong, leather booted to above the ankles. Their idea of a constructive forward pass was to belt the ball upfield as far and as fast as possible.

Any wing having the temerity to try to pass them on the outside was unceremoniously bundled, ball and all, over the touch line and preferably into the fence as well.

Jack (pictured right) took penalties too, with a huge thump and woe betide a goalie who got in the way.

By the time Jack retired, succeeded in my memory by, first, Harry Brigham, I had graduated to the. the main stand, taken by either John Shannon, his friend Lumley Dodsworth, or my father, by then home from the war.

The stand hasn’t changed much, although extended since. There were no seats, only hard benches, seat numbers stenciled onto black painted patches on the bare wood. At the head of the steps, the same flight then as now, stood a man calling “Cushions, cushions, threepence each.”

There were not enough of these for everybody so some – and always me – had to do without. The glass at the end of the stand was never cleaned so the Grosvenor Road end was only seen “through a glass darkly”.

There was a flagpole beside the stand at that side, upon it a flag, always lowered five minutes before the end of every game. “Flag down!” the crowd roared, every time either in relief or exhortation.

I barely remember some of Jack Pinder’s early successors. One was Percy Andrews dark, bowlegged and a little more cultured in that he took a touch, or even two before the inevitable upfield boot.

My most vivid memory of that period was of John Simpson (pictured right). I was told on good authority that he had but one eye. He played regularly until 1953 so he almost certainly had both eyes as he was very good.

1953 saw the formation of perhaps the best defensive trio that City have ever had, Forgan, Phillips, Howe. Back play had moved on by them, and neither Ernie Phillips nor George Howe were out of the Pinder mould.

While defensively sound they did venture further forward not far but forward nonetheless. At Blackpool in the Cup, George was marking Stanley Matthews. A Blackpool fan sitting next to me said “Watch out, Stanley will roll up his sleeves, and Mr Howe will be for it!”

Well Stanley did roll up his sleeves, but we won 2-0, thanks to Billy Fenton and Sid Storey. My father always told me to watch Ernie Phillips’ skill in the air. Not only was he very cultured but a great captain too.

Pictured in the City line-up from January 1958, Ernie Phillips (left) and George Howe (right). In between them is Peter Wragg

National Service then intervened and my only vivid memory of those days is of my physical training instructor at Strensall Camp. I think his name was Miles, and he played for Southport on the right wing. I went to Bootham Crescent to watch him play against City and wished that I hadn’t.

Once again on the terrace behind the goal, I saw City bombard the Southport goal throughout the game, missing chances galore. Late, too late in the second half Lance Corporal Miles broke away to score the only goal of the game. I remember his crowing to this day.

In the same year City were at home to Sunderland in the Cup, and Len Shackleton played on their right wing right under my nose. He was well policed by Howe and did disappointingly little of note.

Gerry Baker and Tommy Heron

The early Sixties passed me by as I was in Malaya and could only follow the results in the overseas copies of The Daily Telegraph and by the time I came back to York in 1964, Gerry Baker and Tommy Heron were the backs, but soon along came Phil Burrows. Always immaculate, Phil was resolute and quick to break forward.

I saw him help to avenge the Southport defeat, but I had lost touch with Lance Corporal Miles by then. Phil held the left back position with great distinction.

There are some other memorable full backs, who were much more to the fore than their early predecessors. Derek Hood, sometimes a back, sometimes a half, had a moustache and I was reminded of him recently when I saw The Artist, that wonderful black and white film where the hero sported a similar moustache.

Derek Hood (left) and The Artist

Later backs of note included Andy McMillan and Wayne “Ginner” Hall both forerunners of todays wing backs who are much more to the fore.

  • Read Part One: When goalies wore green here
  • Many thanks to David Batters for kindly giving us permission to reproduce pictures from his books Images Of Sport: York City Football Club, published by Tempus, and York City: The Complete Record, published by Breedon Books and available from the York City shop and online here