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The overwhelming response Paul Oxbury received for his book on Norwich and District Thursday League Football

PUBLISHED: 15:02 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:02 12 January 2015

Author Paul Oxbury with his book The League of Forgotten Men, about the Norwich and District Thursday football League. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Author Paul Oxbury with his book The League of Forgotten Men, about the Norwich and District Thursday football League. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2014

Accountant Paul Oxbury has scored a winner with his new book telling the story and following the glorious history of the Norwich & District Thursday League Football League which attracted tens of thousands of players over its 109-year history.

Thursday League memories: Norwich Rangers from 1961. The photograph comes from David Willimott of Carmichaels Darts & Trophies of Magdalen Street who still sees ex-players who try to put names to faces.Thursday League memories: Norwich Rangers from 1961. The photograph comes from David Willimott of Carmichaels Darts & Trophies of Magdalen Street who still sees ex-players who try to put names to faces.

The bad news is the book almost sold out in a week when it was published at Christmas... the good news is it has been re-printed should be back in the Jarrold store by the end of this week.

The response has been overwhelming and as soon as my story about the book was published the memories came flooding back of great days playing on a Thursday - when the shops closed at mid-day and many others working in the city and across the county made sure, by hook or by crook, they got the afternoon off too.

Policemen, postmen, hairdressers, law clerks, servicemen, church congregations, and even prisoners – they all got together on a Thursday to play football.

The life and times of the league, the wonderful characters, the laughs, the mishaps, they are all part of Paul’s wonderful book which is packed with photographs and goes into great detail about how the league changed and developed, the winners and losers, and how it finally ran out of stream as our lifestyle changed, and ‘early closing’ became a thing of the past.

Here are just some of your memories:

League secretary Tom Ireland, who sent the fixtures to the Evening News each week, said his phone would be red-hot with calls of complaint if they were not published on a Wednesday. Not from clubs but from Thursday afternoon spectators, anxious for their fix of midweek football.

He also recalled how some players said they would prefer him not to mention their names in his reports for the Pink Un as they shouldn’t have been playing football on a Thursday afternoon. Their bosses would not be too chuffed.

David LaMotte says the EDP had a team in the 1980s. “The majority were night workers who managed to surface to play games against the might of Sprowston Thursday, North Walsham Police, JJ Fun City and also the two prison teams – Norwich and Wayland. “Sometimes we managed to draft in ‘star’ players like Malcolm Robertson, Kevin Piper and Richard Henwood,” said David.

Former Norwich MP Ian Gibson said: “Excellent book. Brought back memories of playing for Curls in the late 1960s and a match against Corinthians at Carrow Road.” Sadly Curls lost 6-2.

Memories from Paul Eggett, passed on from his late father John, who was secretary of the league from 1966 to 1982 when he died.

One of a referee who was a self-employed window cleaner and called in most unhappy on a Thursday night when he was told he could not take his van inside Norwich prison due to the fact that his ladders were still on the roof rack. Apparently he was told by the officer on the gate that within five minutes they would be gone and used to “go over the wall”.

Then there was the time when play was halted during a match at Little Plumstead Hospital when a patient watching the game ran off with the ball.

“Also of my dad’s disbelief when he got stopped for speeding by just about the only policeman in Norwich that didn’t play football at the time. The speeding story was a standing joke with our family for years, and caused much laughter as he couldn’t believe his luck that he didn’t know the officer concerned,” said Paul.

Peter Tadman, now living in Croydon, told how he was a player for the city police during his years as Pc12 and later as Pc 212. He scored for the police at Carrow Road in one of their annual games against the Specials and also played in the 1958 Norfolk Thursday Cup Final against RAF Neatishead. “Not many of us left now. My medal is in a box in the garage, don’t think it would make much at auction!”

Roger Waterton recalled hearing about a game at Norwich Prison where one of the inmates offered to swap shirts after the match.

Mike Guymer, now chairman of Beccles Caxton, remembers leaving school and working for Norwich Sports alongside Geoff Fiddler and ex-Canary Jim Oliver. Jim was then playing in the league for the Corinthians. Mike found himself playing in the cup final of 1976 as a 17-year-old. He later played Saturday football with Post Office regular Barry Durrant.

When he heard about the chance of a job with the GPO he nervously attended the interview when one of the panel said to him: “I believe you play for Barry on Saturdays and he would like you to play for the Post Office in the Thursday League. That’s fine, we will be in touch.”

He got the job.

• The League of Forgotten Men. A history of the Norwich & District Thursday Football League by Paul Oxbury will be on sale at Jarrold later this week, priced £7.95. You can also order one from Paul at paul_oxbury@hotmail.com

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